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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Jul 2014

Winless since 1989, Congress searches for winnable candidate

Kamaldeep Singh Brar and Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar, Hindustan Times  Ferozepur, February 25, 2014
First Published: 00:54 IST(25/2/2014) | Last Updated: 00:56 IST(25/2/2014)

Having failed to win this Lok Sabha seat for more than two decades, it would again be a tough job for the Congress to choose a winnable candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

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Sitting MP Sher Singh Ghubaya is tipped to be the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) nominee again.

Of the nine assembly segments in Ferozepur, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress have four seats each, while one is with the BJP. The caste factor has played an important role here in the Lok Sabha elections to tilt the scales in favour of the SAD during the past decade due to the influence of Rai Sikh and Kamboj voters.

The Congress-led UPA-2 has awarded many projects, including a 200-bedded satellite centre of the PGI, four-laning of the Talwandi-Ludhiana as well as Ferozepur-Hussainiwala roads, new trains on the Ferozepur-New Delhi route, and a domestic airport at Ferozepur to woo the electorate.

Former Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Jagmeet Singh Brar, who lost to Akali candidates Zora Singh Maan (2004) and Ghubaya (2009), is again vying for the ticket. His rival within the party, Guru Har Sahai MLA Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, is also lobbying strongly. Differences between Brar and Sodhi are an open secret.

In case the Congress decides not to give the ticket to a sitting MLA, there is Sodhi’s son, Anumeeet Hira Sodhi, in the fray. The trump card for the Sodhi family is the Rai Sikh vote bank that played a key role in the 2012 assembly elections.

Former SAD MLA Harnirpal Singh Kukku, who is Anumeeet’s father-in-law, is also in the race for the ticket. He had joined the Congress in January 2012 in the presence of former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

Denied the Congress ticket, former minister Hans Raj Josan, who belongs to the Kamboj community, contested (and lost) the 2012 assembly polls from Jalalabad against Sukhbir Badal. His claim to the ticket is also based on the caste factor.

Other Congress contenders include Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, considered close to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi; Ferozepur (Urban) MLA Parminder Singh Pinki, who had regained the assembly seat for the Congress after more than a decade; and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar’s close aide Raminder Awla.

SAD’s choice

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the SAD played the Rai Sikh card and gave the ticket to then sitting MLA from Jalalabad Sher Singh Ghubaya, ignoring three-time MP Zora Singh Maan.

The latter’s son Verdev Singh, who is said to be close to party president Sukhbir Badal, is eying the ticket. Liquor baron and SAD halqa incharge (Abohar) Shiv Lal Doda, who fought the 2012 assembly polls as an Independent and gave a tough fight to Sunil Jakhar, is also an aspirant for the party ticket.

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose Rai Sikh candidate Mohan Singh Phalianwala won the seat in 1992 and 1996, has already named Ram Kumar Prajapati as its nominee this time.

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