The Congress high command may face a big challenge in deciding the party’s candidate for Khadoor Sahib bypoll slated to be held on February 13 with two party leaders laying claim over the candidature.
Besides Ramanjit Singh Sikki who resigned as MLA over incidents of desecration of ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib in October last year, another local Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Bittu is making persistent efforts for allotment of the party ticket.
Sikki is considered a loyalist of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, while Bittu is an aide of former state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa. Bittu also enjoys the support of former Union sports minister and Rajya Sabha member Dr Manohar Singh Gill.
Talking to HT, Bittu said he had held various meetings with senior leaders of the party, including state unit president Captain Amarinder Singh, to make them aware of his merits as a candidate. He has already started mobilising party workers in support of his candidature to counter Sikki.
Bittu, who has remained block Congress chief and chairman of Khadoor Sahib market committee, said: “Sikki has also done precious little for people as he avoided visiting the constituency.” Another point that goes in Bittu’s favour is that Dr Gill distributes his MPLADS fund in consultation with Bittu, who claimed he had distributed as many as Rs 37 crore from the fund in the constituency, which is more than Rs 34 crore allotted by Punjab chief minister during the sangat darshan held in the constituency.
On the other hand, Sikki has also conducted some meetings with his supporters and has been making statements which suggest that he is keen in being allotted the party ticket this time too.
“I resigned as MLA to protest against the desecration of ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib across the state. I have always worked for the welfare of people and will not be distracted by detractors in future as well.” Meanwhile, his opponents including Bittu are criticising him that if he quitted as MLA in respect of Guru Granth Sahib, then why was he again showing keenness in acquiring the same post.
Notably, many Congress leaders want him to contest again to woo the Sikh voters who form the majority in the constituency, as Sikki resigned on an emotive religious issue that shook the entire state.