Barely two days before the last date for filing nominations in Punjab, the Congress final battle line-up is ready, or so it seems as the party changed four candidates announced in earlier lists and kept three seats on hold.
The fifth list of the party released on Monday named former CM and Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh against five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in latter’s bastion Lambi and party’s young turk and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu against deputy CM Sukhbir Badal from Jalalabad, the seat he has won twice.
Former batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has padded up for his state innings, has been named the party candidate from his wife Navjot Kaur’s seat of Amritsar East to queer the pitch for the BJP.
Amritsar is seen as a stronghold of the saffron party that is contesting four seats in the district — Amritsar East, North, Central, West — besides the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, for which the BJP has fielded a Sikh face Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna for the February 4 bypoll.
After an intense tussle between Sidhu and Amarinder over Jalandhar Cantt seat, former Olympian Pargat Singh was named as its candidate following Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s assurance to Sidhu on Sunday.
The cold war between Amarinder and Sidhu has come out in the open as Captain gave Sidhu’s formal joining at New Delhi on Monday a miss on pretext of launching party’s poll campaign and the former batsman too did not think extending the courtesy necessary.
Amarinder loyalist Jagbir Brar gave up the fight and has been named for the Nakodar seat instead of Cantt. While the Congress upped its stakes in the polls by fielding its top guns against ruling Badals, the internal battles within the party got personal as Bittu is virtually vetoing a ticket to former union minister and party spokesman Manish Tewari from Ludhiana East.
Here is the full list of candidates:
Five-time MLA Lal Singh had to bow out over Amarinder’s ‘one family, one ticket’ rule. His son, Rajinder Singh, has already been allotted the Samana seat. Akaliturned-Congress leader Harry Mann, who was eyeing Samana, has been fielded in Lal’s Sanuar seat instead.
MP Bittu was preparing the ground from Jalalabad much before the announcement. He was instrumental in getting Davinder Ghubaya, son of SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, into the Congress. The two MPs are neighbours in Delhi and Ghubaya holds a considerable sway over the Rai Sikh votes in Sukhbir’s seat.
Other than Tewari’s Ludhiana East, the party has kept the Amritsar South and Mansa seats on hold where a tug-of-war is on between its various factions. Former Akali MLA Inderbir Bolaria is a contender from the seat along with hotelier Jasbir Dimpa who also has a transport company. The former has the support of Amarinder and the latter, some other screening committee members.
From Mansa, Amarinder’s former media adviser Bharat Inder Singh Chahal is eyeing a ticket for his son and so is former minister Mangat Rai Bansal for his wife.