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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Akali Dal hard pressed to choose a suitable candidate

Vishal Rambani  Patiala, July 24, 2014
First Published: 23:55 IST(24/7/2014) | Last Updated: 23:57 IST(24/7/2014)

Despite several contenders for the party ticket from the Patiala Urban constituency for the coming bypoll, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is finding it tough to get a suitable candidate.

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SAD sources said party president Sukhbir Singh Badal is not fully satisfied with the credentials of any of the ticket aspirants and therefore has put on hold the decision in this regard while finalising the ticket for Talwandi Sabo constituency, which will also go to the polls along with Patiala on August 21. 

For the bypoll, the SAD will have to find a candidate in Patiala who can not only counter the surge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won the Patiala Lok Sabha seat in the recent elections, but can also match the political stature of former union minister Preneet Kaur, who is the Congress candidate.  

In the Lok Sabha polls, the SAD fared badly in Patiala assembly segment as it was reduced to the third position here and could secure only 15% of the total votes.

Among those being considered by the SAD for this seat are former Rajya Sabha MP Amarjit Kaur, a member of the Patiala royal family, state cabinet minister Surjit Rakhra's brother Charanjit Singh Rakhra, district SAD president Indermohan Singh Bajaj, former mayor Vishnu Sharma and social activist Bhagwan Das Juneja.

Besides, the names of former mayor Ajitpal Singh Kohli and his father former minister Surjit Singh Kohli, who contested the previous two elections on SAD ticket from this seat, are also under consideration.

Sources said that while most of these leaders are projecting themselves as contenders, none is willing to contest. "By making their bid for the party ticket, most of these leaders are bidding for chairmanship of the improvement trust or some other body, as they know very well that winning the Patiala assembly seat is not an easy task," says a SAD leader. 

The seriousness of claimant can be gauged from the fact that one of the ticket aspirants Charanjit Rakhra is now in the United States and is yet to get Indian citizenship. Cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra wields power in Patiala and takes most decisions. So, there is a strong section in the party which says, "Charanjit should be fielded from Patiala as his brother Surjit Rakhra was instrumental in selecting two mayors (Jaspal Pardhan and the incumbent Amarinder Bajaj). They call the shots in the district and now they must pay back to party by putting a fight," said a leader adding that Rakhra had already defeated Raninder Singh, son of former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, from the Samana constituency in the 2012 assembly polls..
 
The leader also said that either district urban president Indermohan Bajaj or his son mayor Amarinder Bajaj should be asked to contest.

Though Amarjit Kaur, an aunt of Capt Amarinder Singh, is also making efforts to get the ticket, she has not been politically active for the past seven years. Former mayor Vishnu Sharma, who has recently joined the SAD, does not wield much influence within the party.

Kohlis, who were twice denied the post of mayor and presidentship of the party's district unit, are also feeling dejected. Though they hold clout in the city, they have not been able to grab any post in the party since 2012.

Meanwhile, SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said a candidate would be announced within a few days.

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