The bastion of the ruling Badals will yet again see a clash within the Badal clan as the name of Manpreet Badal, the estranged nephew of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, has been cleared from Bathinda urban seat by the central election committee of the Congress headed by party president Sonia Gandhi.
Though Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh was batting for another former state finance minister Surinder Singla, the party has decided to field Manpreet, a Jat Sikh face, against the Hindu candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal, incumbent MLA Sarup Chand Singla, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Congress strategy is not just high on symbolism, of pitching a Badal in the parliamentary constituency of CM’s daughter-in-law and Union minister Harsimrat Badal to contain the ruling clan in Bathinda, but also to gain from the division of Hindu votes in the seat between the Akali Dal and the AAP. The fact that Manpreet had a lead of 30,000 votes from Bathinda urban when he lost to Harsimrat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has not gone unnoticed in the calculations. To pre-empt rebel trouble, the party is learnt to offered Surinder Singla the Moga seat.
While the Congress has decided to bet on a Sikh face here, at another Hindu-dominated seat of Sangrur, former MP Vijay Inder Singla has been found to be the strongest candidate in party surveys. Surinderpal Sibia, a Jat Sikh, was the party nominee in 2012 state polls. The other two contenders from the seat are Baldev Mann of the SAD (Longowal), which has now merged into Congress and former Amargarh candidate Surjit Dhiman. Singla, who is working as an “organisational man” in party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s media communication team, may have to get into poll gear to contest the assembly elections as the party tries to fulfil the criteria of Hindu, youth and winnability.
But the name of another Hindu face, former Union minister Manish Tewari, has yet not been given a go ahead from Ludhiana east seat. Amarinder said on Sunday that the decision to field Tewari depends on the party high command.
The screening committee headed by former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot will meet again this week to iron out differences on some other seats. According to sources, another meeting of the central election committee is likely later this week before the release of the list.