ECI bypoll announcement catches parties off-guard

  • Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: Jul 20, 2014 16:39 IST

With none of the major parties of the region prepared for an election, the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) announcement of Patiala byelection has caught them off-guard.

While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharitya Janta Party (SAD-BJP) alliance is still recovering from shock over its third position finish in Patiala in the Lok Sabha election, the Congress is mourning the defeat of three-time member of Parliament (MP) and former minister Preneet Kaur by a political greenhorn Aam Aadmi Party leader Dr Dharamvira Gandhi; and the AAP has failed to form a district unit in spite of enrolling many volunteers.

The byelection has been necessitated after the Patiala assembly seat fell vacant following MLA and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s election to the Lok Sabha from Amritsar.

After his victory, he resigned from the assembly and it was accepted on May 26.
However, the ECI’s announcement came earlier than expected, as politicians in the region were supposing it to be made in October.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to improve the prospects of SAD candidate, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal held a Sangat Darshan in his trademark style to announce several development projects and hand over cheques of grants to area residents, ahead of the byelection.

The local leaders have been requesting the CM to hold a Sangat Darshan since early June to overcome the effects of the party’s defeat in Patiala due to of lack of development.

However, the ECI’s announcement foiled SAD’s plan to hold a Sangat Darshan, which was scheduled after the budget session which will end on July 22, leaving only a four-day room for the ruling party to make any such announcements as the model code of conduct will be enforced from July 26.

The SAD is also yet to decide its candidate for the election as no leader has been projected as a candidate in the parliament. Former mayors Ajitpal Singh Kohli, Vishnu Sharma, who switched from the Congress to the ruling SAD, the party’s district president Indermohan Singh Bajaj and Charanjit Singh Rakhra, brother of rural development and panchayats minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, are ticket aspirants.

The Congress is also facing a similar situation where the party is in disarray after its defeat in the Lok Sabha election and there is no synergy among the Congressmen as many are missing from the field.

However, it can be expected that the Patiala Royal Family will certainly have the final say with Captain Amarinder Singh deciding who will fight from the district.
The Congress may field former MP Preneet Kaur, her son Raninder Singh and any other member from the royal family.

With neither a district unit nor a finalised candidate, the third contender AAP would not find the Patiala byelection to be an easy win.

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