The ‘one family, one ticket’ norm of the Congress for the Punjab polls has left the party spoilt for choice. Add to it, the promise of at least 30 tickets to youth and you have a Bollywoood potboiler.
Former state minister Gurchet Bhullar, whose younger son, Sukhpal Bhullar, was announced as the party candidate from Khem Karan on Friday was the first to raise the banner of revolt against his son’s nomination. Gurchet, who lost as the party's candidate from Khem Karan in the 2012 state polls, said he cannot campaign for “one son and hurt the other”.
With Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh coming up with the ‘one family, one ticket’ rule this time, 75-year-old Gurchet and his elder son, Anoop Bhullar, 46, too applied for the seat. Sensing that the father wanted to pass the legacy on to the older brother, Sukhpal, who has been active in student and youth wings of the Congress for the past eight years, applied from the neighbouring Tarn Taran seat. This prompted Gurchet to write his first letter to party president Sonia Gandhi, saying the family be given just the Khem Karan seat and it could choose anyone out of the three — his two sons or him. He also met the screening committee for the Punjab polls headed by former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Amarinder with the same request.
On learning that the party was considering Sukhpal from Khem Karan, Gurchet wrote another letter to Sonia saying that he should be allotted the ticket. “I wrote to both Sonia and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi that the ticket to any one of my two sons will divide my family as they do not get along with each other. Even the survey reports of the party are saying I am a winnable candidate. So I should have been allotted the ticket. It is my older son who has been visiting villages in the constituency with me. He has been running a programme to rescue youths from drug abuse in the area. How can I then campaign for my younger son?” Gurchet told HT on Friday.
Asked if the youth criteria — Amarinder had capped the age for youth candidates at 45 years — was the reason for Sukhpal, who is 39, getting the ticket, Gurchet said that at 75 years he still looks young and is active in politics. “I would have won the seat but they have created more bad blood between my sons,” he said.
Anoop, on his part, contended that unlike his younger brother, he has been a grassroots worker. “Ask Sukhpal if he has visited even his own village in the constituency in the past five years. He wouldn’t even know how many families live in our village. Just making rounds of political leaders does not mean one is in active politics,” Anoop said.
But a euphoric Sukhpal claimed he has worked his way up. “I started my political career with the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and later became the Punjab Youth Congress vice-president. I am currently the Tarn Taran District Congress president . My brother deals in property and has been taking interest in politics only in the last one year. As for my father, it is difficult for him to choose between his two sons. He is just thinking like a father,” Sukhpal said.
Not all families though have found the new rules so disrupting. While three generations of the sitting Samrala legislator Amrik Singh Dhillon, 74, had applied, including his son Kamaljit Dhillon, 52, and grandson Karanvir , 26, the party on Friday announced Amrik as its candidate and all was quiet in the Dhillon family.