Reposing faith in former legislator and minister Gobind Singh Longowal, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has re-nominated him as the party’s candidate for the April 11 Dhuri byelection.
The bypoll is crucial for the ruling SAD as a win here will take its tally to 59 in the 117-member Punjab Vidhan Sabha. This will also end the SAD’s dependence on its ally — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — for a majority in the House.
Though a section of Akali leaders was against re-nominating Longowal, Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa wanted him as the party’s candidate.
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“Longowal has been finalised as the party candidate and an announcement will be made very shortly,” said party general secretary Dhindsa. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and some other senior party leaders were present at the meeting to finalise the candidate for the bypoll.
Longowal lost the 2012 assembly elections from Dhuri to Congress’ Arvind Khanna by a margin of 12,473 votes.
A non-controversial politician and political heir of former SAD chief late Harchand Singh Longowal, Gobind was elected to the Punjab assembly from the Sherpur constituency in 1997 and from the Dhanaula segment in 2002. However, he faced defeat from the Dhanaula constituency in 2007 and Dhuri in 2012. He was the minister of state for irrigation in the Badal government in 1997.
Since his defeat in the 2012 assembly elections, he was working as the SAD’s halqa in-charge in Dhuri and had participated in sangat darshan programmes of the chief minister.
The SAD was thinking of fielding a new candidate this time as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got a lead of 33,000 votes from Dhuri in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The name of industrialist Purshotam Das Garg was also doing the rounds. But the party favoured Longowal as AAP decided not to contest the bypoll.