With the Congress, which has named 61 candidates in its first list for the Punjab assembly polls, battling to reach a consensus on the remaining 56 seats, the party is learnt to have received a recommendation for ticket to a Jalandhar realtor from “a kin of the Gandhis with real estate interests”.
Highly placed sources in the party said that former Jalandhar Improvement Trust chairman Tajinder Bittu, who had applied for Jalandhar Central and Jalandhar Cantonment seats and was not considered for both, is now a frontrunner from the Jalandhar North segment.
Bittu’s name was discussed among panel of names prepared by the screening committee of the party headed by former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot. The central election committee (CEC) headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi that met on Tuesday, however, did not reach a consensus on whether to field Bittu or former minister Avtar Henry, who has been embroiled in a row over “dual citizenship” and a property dispute with the son of his first wife.
INTO REAL ESTATE AFTER JIT STINT
Bittu has been dealing in real estate after his stint as the improvement trust chief during the Congress government headed by Captain Amarinder Singh. Close to Amarinder then, he later switched loyalties to Partap Singh Bajwa in 2013 after the latter replaced Amarinder as the Punjab Congress chief. Sources said many leaders are in the fray to bag chairmanships being promised by Captain if they are not allotted tickets to contest the upcoming assembly polls. Bittu, when contacted, denied he had recommendation of “someone close to the Gandhis”.
“I was interested in the Jalandhar Central seat but it has again been allotted to Rajinder Beri, who lost from there in the 2012 polls. I had also applied from the Jalandhar Cantonment segment but Pargat Singh is a contender from there now. I was allotted ticket once from Jalandhar Central in the 2007 state polls. I could not win then but I have told the party to give me a chance again,” Bittu said.
The CEC is learnt to have cleared nearly 25 seats on Tuesday. Of 56 seats, the screening committee had recommended single names on 28 seats, two or more names on 15 seats and had kept the rest on the pending list.
JALANDHAR CANTT SEAT CONTENTIOUS
The Jalandhar Cantt seat continues to remain contentious as Amarinder is supporting the candidature of his loyalist Jagbir Brar as a “winnable” candidate. Party insiders said former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh, who too has dug his heels, may be asked to shift his base. The Amritsar (South) seat of another former SAD legislator, Inderbir Bolaria, too has not been cleared. Ludhiana East from where former Union minister Manish Tewari is a contender too has not been decided.
Among the sitting MLAs, the party is learnt to have approved the name of Amrik Dhillon from Samrala and not his 26-year-old grandson, Karanvir. The Samana seat too has not been decided between MLA Lal Singh’s son Rajinder Singh and another SAD entrant into the party, former information commissioner Harry Mann.
Likewise, the party has yet to decide between former state minister Gurchet Bhullar and his son Sukhpal Bhullar from Khem Karan.
Muktsar MLA Karan Brar, sources said, is likely to retain her seat and Gidderbaha MLA Amribnder Singh Raja Warring too will have to defend his own seat. The party is looking to field a new face from Lambi seat of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. A few MLAs may get to retain their seats owing to “no better alternative” syndrome such as Kharar MLA Jagmohan Kang and Ajaib Singh Bhatti from Bhucho Mandi.