Known for its panthic politics, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership is unable to decide a candidate for the byelection in Dhuri, where the urban area is dominated by Hindu voters and the rural belt by Jat Sikhs.
The massive lead of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Dhuri is forcing the SAD to think twice over the selection of the candidate. The factor that the AAP had got nearly a 33,000-vote lead from Dhuri can't be ignored.
It's for the first time the SAD has not announced its candidate for a bypoll even after two days after the nomination process started. Usually, the SAD announces its candidate for an election much before the announcement of the date.
Amongst the contenders, former MLA Gobind Singh Longowal, who lost to the Congress' Arvind Khanna in 2012 elections, is facing a tough competition from Purshotam Das Garg, 54, a partner in the multi-crore business firm AP Solvex - the makers of Ricella Bran oil. Known as Kala, he was one of the key persons, who in the 2012 assembly polls, had spearheaded the campaign of Arvind Khanna in Dhuri, where he has his business and factory.
Nearly 800 people from Dhuri are directly employed in this rice bran oil factory. Recently, he shifted his loyalties to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who even visited his home recently. Kala was also seen in the sangat darshan programme of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who had distributed nearly Rs 21 crore grants in the Dhuri area.
"The SAD is facing a dilemma whether to choose a Hindu face or a Panthic face and this has delayed the selection. The Hindus are in a sizeable number in Dhuri city and in 75 villages of the subdivision. During the last election, the Hindu factor had played significant role and thus Longowal was defeated," said a SAD leader.
The Panthic leaders want that the ticket should be re-allotted to Longowal, who has been working as halqa in-charge since 2011. Longowal is having a clean, honest, non-controversial and docile image.
However, a section feels that after 2012 assembly elections, the vote bank of the SAD has further decreased, thus the party should field a new face keepin gin view the 2017 elections. "Winning the bypoll is an easy task with the party's government in the state, but we must plan aiming at the 2017 polls", is the argument detractors of Longowal putting forth.
However, panthic leaders said that after replacing a Sikh in the Patiala bypoll by a Hindu face, allotting Dhuri ticket to a Hindu may give a wrong signal that the SAD is preferring Hindus over its panthic leaders. Longowal is also a political legacy holder of the Akali stalwart Harchand Singh Longowal.
Apart from others, a lesser known face Kulwinder Singh Mintu Aulukh, including the name of Cherry Dhidsa are also making rounds.
"SAD president Sukhbir Badal has called a meeting of senior leaders on Thursday in Chandigarh, where the name of the candidate will be finalized," said member of parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary general of the SAD. email@example.com