With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) choosing to remain out, the Punjab opposition parties plan to field a joint candidate in the Dhuri assembly byelection, the nomination process for which started on Tuesday.
The resignation of Congress legislator Arvind Khanna, a protégé of former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, has forced this election. The opposition is likely to repeat the Bathinda Lok Sabha contest formula, where all opposition parties joined hands to field People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) leader Manpreet Singh Badal on the Congress symbol.
They have had a formal meeting, where Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa; Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad; PPP president Manpreet Singh Badal; and Sanjha Morcha general secretary Gagandeep Singh Barnala were present. Bajwa has asked the party high command to ask Captain Amarinder Singh for a candidate, since he gave the ticket to Khanna “against the recommendation of the local party leadership”.
The Congress has suggested former legislator Surjit Singh Dhiman, Dhanwant Singh Dhuri and Mai Roop Kaur as candidates, but a section wants former MP Vijay Inder Singla, looking at the caste factor in the Bania-dominated constituency. The other option the party is exploring is to field a joint candidate with the rest of the opposition, for which the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) has approached the Congress. The SAD (Longowal) would want a candidate from the family of former chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala; either his son Gagandeep Singh Barnala or any other relative. Gagandeep Singh was Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislator from Dhuri between 2002 and 2007.
“Talks are on, once a formula gets shape, we will disclose it. But the Barnala family will contest the election,” said Gagandeep Singh. On the other hand, Bajwa, when contacted, said his party will disclose its strategy on Wednesday evening, after the high command has taken a final call. “Yes, we had a meeting with the opposition leaders, who are willing to support us. Our common aim is to defeat the (Shiromani) Akali Dal, but the election must be on the Congress symbol,” he said.
No nomination on first day
No paper was filed on the first day of the nomination process on Tuesday. The last day is March 24.