New faces from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are set to give a tough fight to leading contenders in the race for ticket from Hoshiarpur (reserved) parliamentary, which has a sizeable chunk of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supporters who make an impact on every poll battle.
The sitting Congress MP is union minister of state for health and family welfare Santosh Chaudhary, who, in a nail-biting contest in 2009, had defeated bureaucrat-turned-BJP candidate Som Parkash and present MLA from Phagwara by a margin of only 366 votes. Chaudhary managed to secure a berth in the union cabinet last year, but it won’t be easy for her to get the ticket again from Hoshiapur.
Targeting Chaudhary over her ‘unimpressive’ win in the 2009 polls is a young radiologist, Dr Raj Kumar. Dr Kumar, an aggressive youth leader, fought the 2012 assembly elections on the Congress ticket from Chabbewal segment and lost by around 6,000 votes. His candidature for the Lok Sabha seat is reportedly backed by Rajya Sabha member and key All India Congress Committee member Ambika Soni “Madam’s (Chaudhary’s) style of ‘connecting’ with party workers is already under question. I’m a doctor. I know the pulse of the people. I know remedies to ensure development,” said Dr Kumar.
Chaudhary’s detractors are also claiming that she is losing her vote bank, citing the example of her husband Ram Lubhaya Chaudhary, who suffered an embarrassing defeat from Sham Chaurasi in the 2012 assembly polls. But her status of being a woman Dalit MP adds weight to her claim for candidature.
Other Congress probables are Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Chaudhary, who has also applied from the Jalandhar seat as his first choice, and former state Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, whose first choice is the Fatehgarh Sahib seat. Retired IPS officer DR Bhatti has also applied for the party ticket.
From the BJP, Som Parkash, chief parliamentary secretary (local government), has emerged as the strongest contender. His ‘hesitation’ to contest the Lok Sabha polls ­— if he wins, he would have to vacate his assembly seat — is still an issue with the party, though his candidature is backed by state party chief Kamal Sharma.
State Forest Development Corporation vice-president Vijay Sampla is also eyeing the BJP ticket. He is the choice of Avinash Rai Khanna, Rajya Sabha member and former Lok Sabha MP from Hoshiarpur. “My hard work and dedication to the party and the SC (Scheduled Caste) community are evident to everyone. I think my work will get due recognition,” said Sampla.
Another aspirant, state SC Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha, can prove to be the dark horse in this race. The BSP, whose founder, late Kanshi Ram, had won the seat in 1996, has already announced senior local leader Bhagwan Singh as its candidate.