After fielding its stalwarts in Punjab, the Congress has tried to beat anti-incumbency against its sitting MPs by playing a game of musical chairs.
In its seventh list on Tuesday, the party ended the suspense over Ludhiana, from where union minister Manish Tewari has opted out citing health reasons, by bringing in Ravneet Singh Bittu, who was replaced from his current seat Anandpur Sahib last week by senior leader Ambika Soni.
Another union minister Santosh Chowdhary, a Dalit and woman face of the Congress in Doaba, has been kept out. Acting on feedback that both its sitting MPs — Santosh and Mohinder Singh Kaypee — were facing strong anti-incumbency in the Dalit heartland, Santosh has been replaced by Jalandhar MS Kaypee, whose seat has gone to former Punjab minister Chaudhary Santokh Singh.
Chaudhary Santokh’s son Vikramjit Chaudhary, the Punjab Youth Congress president, was being seen as a strong contender for the ticket; but going along with the strategy of pitching senior candidates, the party decided to field the father.
As for Bittu, late CM Beant Singh’s grandson and the party’s young Sikh face, he has been fielded despite Ludhiana now becoming a four-cornered contest among Sikh candidates. The others in fray are Shiromani Akali Dal’s Manpreet Singh Ayali, HS Phooka of the Aam Aadmi Party and independent Simarjit Singh Bains. The roots of Bittu’s family are in the Payal assembly segment, which falls in the Ludhiana district but is part of Fatehgarh Sahib in terms of parliamentary constituencies.
With Bittu’s candidature, the party hopes to stem infighting in the Ludhiana unit, which was sharply divided between factions close to and opposed to Tewari. Ironically, in Anandpur Sahib, Bittu had started campaigning but could not gain momentum owing to infighting and anti-incumbency, a problem common to almost all eight seats that the Congress clinched in 2009.
In case of Santosh Chaudhary, the party tried some damagecontrol by elevating her to the union cabinet as minister of state for health last year, yet she was unable to beat anti-incumbency. A foundation-laying spree could not help.
Kaypee, a former state Congress president, topped the party’s list of under-performers in internal surveys. Hence, he has been fielded from neighbouring Hoshiarpur, to give both Santosh and him a safe exit from their respective seats. Cements, owner of CSK, for failing to comply with the board’s anti-corruption code.
A second report, containing “sensitive information”, was submitted under a sealed cover.
When board’s counsel after senior advocate CA Sundaram stood up to defend Srinivasan, justice Pantnaik said, “I will show you the sealed report and then you honestly ask yourself as a counsel, and not as a paid counsel of Srinivasan, as to what is the right course.” He called the counsel to the dais and showed him the gist of the report. After a brief conversation, the bench gave him time to come back with a response.
Earlier, the court said the Mudgal panel said allegations were such that the board couldn’t be entrusted with them. “Why should this happen at all if cricket has to remain clean. The problem is people who are in control are not taking proper decisions.”