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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Amritsar battle takes away spotlight from Bathinda

IANS  Chandigarh, April 24, 2014
First Published: 15:49 IST(24/4/2014) | Last Updated: 21:30 IST(24/4/2014)
In Punjab's politics, the battle for the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat was supposed to be a big one with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal pitted against his estranged nephew Manpreet Badal. But Bathinda remained in political limelight only for a few days as it got overshadowed by the keen contest at Amritsar. 


After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alliance partner of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, announced senior leader Arun Jaitley for the Amritsar Lok Sabha election, the attention shifted to that seat.
 
But when the Congress fielded senior leader and former chief minister Amarinder Singh to contest against Jaitley, Bathinda has been removed from electoral spotlight altogether.
 
The stakes on the Amritsar seat are not only for the the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Congress but also for leading political families of Punjab. On one side is the ruling elite - the Badal family, which influenced Jaitley being fielded in Amritsar to ease out sitting BJP MP, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, from Amritsar.
 
The Badals and Sidhu have been at loggerheads for the last 3-4 years despite their respective parties being in alliance. The other side is Amarinder, who comes from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala.
 
"The Badal family, especially Chief Minister Badal, Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, have lured Jaitley into this trap (in Amritsar). They gave him an impression that Amritsar was a safe seat for him. But now, he has realized that he faces an uphill task," Jaitley's main opponent and Congress candidate Amarinder Singh told IANS.
 
Sukhbir Badal and Majithia are doing their best to ensure that Jaitley wins from Amritsar. All top Akali Dal and BJP leaders are campaigning mostly in Amritsar. But Amarinder's determined effort this time is unlikely to make things easy for them.
 
Jaitley, who is contesting his first popular election and has been a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, is considered close to BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi. Badal senior recently told the electorate that they should elect Jaitley as he could be the next deputy prime minister.
 
As Amritsar has emerged the biggest political battleground for the April 30 Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, it is certainly at the cost of Bathinda. Before Jaitley and Amarinder got locked in their fight, it was Bathinda that was hogging all the limelight.
 
Sitting MP from Bathinda, Harsimrat Badal, is being challenged by her husband Sukhbir Badal's first cousin Manpreet Badal.
 
Manpreet's People's Party of Punjab (PPP) is fighting the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat with Congress support. Manpreet is using the Congress election symbol for the election. Manpreet was finance minister in Badal's government till he parted way in October 2010.
 
With the limelight on Amritsar, top leaders of both sides are not focussing on Bathinda as much. Even Parkash Singh Badal has not been to Bathinda since April 7 when Harsimrat filed her nomination.
 
In the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, Bathinda was in the limelight as Harsimrat was pitted against Amarinder's son, Raninder Singh. The latter lost by over 140,000 votes.
 
Amid the din, another big contest happening in Punjab is in  Gurdaspur, where sitting MP and state Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa is pitted against three-time MP and actor Vinod Khanna of the BJP.
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