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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014

Clean chit to Pardhan puts Rakhra group in a fix

Ravinder Vasudeva, Hindustan Times  Patiala, March 31, 2013
First Published: 23:18 IST(31/3/2013) | Last Updated: 23:19 IST(31/3/2013)

With the race for the new mayor hotting up, the “clean chit” to former mayor Jaspal Pardhan has put the group led by rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra on the backfoot.

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Pardhan, when elected as mayor, belonged to the Rakhra group, but with the changing of the political equations, the group started disowning him and did not “help” Pardhan when he faced murder charges.

The group, without waiting for the investigation report by the SIT, even projected Jaspal Singh Bittu Chattha for the post after it fell vacant.

Among 33 SAD councillors in the 50-member MC house, though Rakhra group enjoys the support of more than 10 councillors, Chattha's candidature has already resulted in a split in the group, with a few councillors, including Balbir Kharor and Surinder Phalwan, denying accepting him as the mayoral candidate.

Another worry for this faction is that four councillors on Monday met Pardhan and backed him as the mayoral candidate and declared this before Patiala SAD incharge and education minister Sikander Singh Maluka on the phone.

Sources said SAD chief Sukhbir Badal was perturbed over the move of the group to project another candidate and making the split in the party public.

“When there are already five to six candidates in the race, where was the need to project a different candidate from the group?  It has only fired factionalism,” said a senior leader, who is among the three-member screening committee constituted to take the feedback from councillors before deciding on the new mayor.

The party leadership was also “irritated” at the way the group “disowned” Pardhan when he faced murder charges.

Sources said the recent move by Rakhra's brother Charanjeet Singh to conduct interviews of councillors of the Rakhra group had also created bad blood among the group. Charanjeet is not even an office-bearer of the SAD and in which capacity he conducted the meeting of SAD councillors has raised brows. It was at this meeting last week that Chattha was projected as the new candidate.

With all these things going against them, the Rakhra group is now in a fix.

Meanwhile, with every possibility of Pardhan being re-nominated, the candidates have started making last-ditch efforts.

When contacted, Maluka said any decision about the new mayor would be taken by the SAD chief and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

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