After being denied the ticket by the Congress for the Punjab upcoming assembly elections, the Barnalas, once a force to reckon with in the state’s politics, are staring at political oblivion. Family scion Simar Pratap Singh Barnala — grandson of former chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala — had lost the 2015 assembly bypoll from Dhuri, and has been ignored this time in favour of Dalvir Singh Goldy, a former president of the Panjab University Campus Students’ Council.
The family on Friday held a show of strength by gathering supporters and some local Congress leaders, who urged the high command to reconsider the decision. Simar’s father, Gaganjit Singh Barnala, said he would meet Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Capt Amarinder Singh before announcing any decision.
“I don’t know what the reasons were (for ticket denial), but it’s not a wise decision,” said Gaganjit, a vice-president of the state unit. “Simar had fought the bypoll when the Congress didn’t have any candidate. He got more than 32,000 votes, when every single village was manned by an Akali MLA or minister. I am upset over the decision and will take up the matter with Capt Amarinder, who had assured us of the ticket.”
Asked if the family would contest anyhow, he said, “We will first meet the PPCC president and raise our concerns. I am hopeful he will change the ticket.”
Lakhbir Singh Bamal, block president of Dhuri Congress, who was among the leaders who gathered at the Barnalas’ residence, alleged that Goldy had worked against the party in 2012 and 2015. “He was openly threatening to contest as a rebel. The party must rethink the decision as the entire Congress of Dhuri is with the Barnala family.”
The Barnalas, once a force to reckon with in state politics, are in political oblivion since deserting the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the party that Surjit Singh Barnala led in the 1980s to later become CM and then a minister in the Union government. Gaganjit, who became an Akali legislator in 2002, failed to take the legacy forward. After the three back-to-back defeats — setback to Gaganjit in 2007 and 2012, and the debacle for Simar in 2015 — hoping for a ticket for Simar, the family merged their SAD (Longowal) with the Congress in April 2016.
“With no platform and all the major stakeholders from their SAD (Longowal) in the Congress after the merger, it will be difficult for the Barnala family to revolt,” said a senior Congressmen who did not wish to be named. “However, they have to do something to keep themselves afloat politically.”