In view of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fielding its sitting MLA Sarup Chand Singla from Bathinda, the Congress is facing tough postures from the state’s two erstwhile finance ministers Manpreet Badal and Surinder Singla, besides former MLA Harminder Singh Jassi for contesting from the politically charged constituency.
Jassi even exhibited his show of strength on Wednesday against any chance of Manpreet Badal getting the ticket, saying it was he who “stood by Manpreet during the last (2014) Lok Sabha polls and led to the increase of 30,000 votes in favour of Manpreet from the Bathinda urban area, which helped Manpreet get a face- saving defeat against Harsimrat Badal”.
The vociferous Jassi roped in Bathinda district Congress committee chief Mohan Lal Jhumba at the meeting attended by 5 of the 9 party councillors and over 500 cadres with many holding ranks in the party at his residence here. Jassi even accused Manpreet of behaving like “the owner of this Bahinda urban constituency”.
Manpreet, whose huge posters emerged in Bathinda in the recent past on festive occasions, told HT that he was willing to contest from Bathinda.
“But I will act as per the wishes of the party high command, and I have nothing to comment on this (Jassi’s rebel meeting),” he said.
Former finance minister Surinder Singla also sounded bitter against Manpreet, as he said, “The one who could not save his own constituency (Gidderbaha), how could he (Manpreet) win from any other constituency?” Manpreet had remained Gidderbaha MLA in the past, before launching his own People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and then lost the Gidderbaha seat in 2012 to Amrinder Singh Raja Waring of the Congress.
Singla banks on Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh who had earlier been quoted for backing Singla for the ticket.
“You see, how Captain Amarinder Singhji said I would be the candidate when he last came here,” Singla told HT.
The PPCC president, during his ‘kisan bus yatra’ had last month (October 19) stated while talking to reporters here that he would recommend Singla’s name as the candidate from Bathinda (urban).
Singla remained Bathinda (urban) MLA in 2002-07 and served as finance minister in the cabinet of then chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Singla on Thursday told HT that he regretted contesting the 2007 Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection. “I should have stuck to my constituency here (Bathinda),” he said. Banking on the “heavy anti-incumbency factor” against the Akali-BJP regime, the Congress leadership here had got a boost with the PPCC president’s visit last month.
Manpreet had got a lead of 30,000 from Bathinda (urban) assembly segment during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that he lost to Harsimrat Kaur Badal for the Bathinda parliamentary seat.
Jassi had lost the 2007 assembly poll from here by a thin margin of 6,600 votes to the SAD’s Sarup Chand Singla. He was then unsuccessfully fielded for the Talwandi Sabo assembly bypoll against the SAD’s Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu in the current AkaliBJP regime in 2014.