The “one family, one ticket” norm of the Congress has added a new spin to the party’s quest for more youth and women candidates.
Congress seems to be spoilt for choice between two generations and in one case, even three generations from families of its MLAs applying for ticket. In case of a former state minister, the fight between two sons has forced him to appeal to the party to let him contest instead.
The screening committee headed by former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the central election committee headed by party president Sonia Gandhi has almost finalised names of candidates on seats where they are the sole applicants or they are strongest contenders. It is in a dilemma over seats where the father or mother as sitting MLA is a strong contender but the “one family, one ticket” norm has left it with no choice but to field either the son or grandson, especially when the sitting MLA so desires.
For instance, on Nawanshahr seat, MLA Guriqbal Kaur is better pitched according to surveys. But she wants her son, Angad Singh, to take over the mantle. Guriqbal herself inherited the ticket as a legacy of her late husband, former MLA Parkash Singh. If the party decides to retain a woman candidate, it will settle for the mother, and if youth candidate, the son. District president of Nawanshahr Satvir Singh, who rose through the party ranks, too has thrown in his hat in the ring. The party is looking for women and youth faces and Angad, 25, is not worried. “If the party decides to field a young face, it can choose me and if a woman, it can choose my mother,” he says.
Likewise, the party is in a quandary on whether to field Muktsar MLA Karan Brar, a woman, or her son, a youth candidate. While doing so, it has also to prevent the number of women candidates from falling. Already two of its sitting MLAs — Preneet Kaur and Charanjit Bajwa — have decided to return the family legacy to the men in the family. Preneet has left the family bastion of Patiala urban seat for husband, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, and Charanjit Bajwa for Fateh Jang Bajwa, the younger brother of her husband and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Bajwa. The party had fielded 11 women candidates in the 2012 state polls.
In Samrala, veteran MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon has “requested” to be dropped in favour of either his son or grandson. The ticket is likely to go to his grandson, Karanvir Dhillon, a 25-year-old MBA from the UK. Though Amrik’s son and Karanvir’s father, Kamaljit Dhillon, too has applied, at 52 years he does not fit the criteria of youth, even though the party has stretched it up to 45 years.
But the transition is not so smooth in some other Congress families. In case of former minister Gurchet Bhullar, the norm has caused a rift in the family. Gurchet and his two sons, Sukhpal Bhullar and Anoop Bhullar, are making rounds of the All India Congress Committee office in New Delhi requesting the screening committee to consider their names from the Khem Karan seat. Last heard, the father has requested for a ticket for himself to avoid a clash between his two sons.
Unable to make the party concede to his request that the norm be relaxed for his last election, six-time MLA Lal Singh may have to hang up his boots for his son, Rajinder Singh, who too is nearing 50 years. The party is in a dilemma whether to let the son contest Lal Singh’s seat Sanuor or Samana, which the father-son are eyeing. Between the two, the surveys peg Lal Singh as a winning candidate.
Since the surveys are not favouring Raikot MLA Gurcharan Singh Boparai, his brother Amar Singh, a retired bureaucrat, is now in the reckoning for the seat. MP Santokh Chaudhary’s son, Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, is also likely to be rewarded a reserved seat from Jalandhar district as father-son duo fit in the party’s formula of “one family member in Parliament and one in state assembly”. An adjustment that leaders like Lal Singh and former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal have been objecting to. Like Lal Singh, Bhattal has given up her stake on Sahnewal seat for her son-in-law Vikram Bajwa.
“We are trying to see the permutations and combinations which can balance the criteria to allot tickets on basis of winnability while ensuring adequate representation to women and youth. Belonging to a dynasty is not a qualification nor is it is disqualification to get a ticket,” says Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab Asha Kumari.