The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to swap at least four assembly seats with ruling alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for the coming elections.
Saffron party’s Punjab affairs in-charge Prabhat Jha told workers last week that the BJP would contest 23 of 117 seats under the old arrangement but want to swap two to four seats with the SAD. Besides Ludhiana West, Rajpura, and Abohar, the BJP plans to give up Amritsar East, from where Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu is legislator. In exchange it wants Barnala, Mansa, Batala, and Garhshankar.
In the 2012 contest for Ludhiana West, former state BJP president Rajinder Bhandari lost to Bharat Bhushan Ashu of the Congress. In the previous elections, Maheshinder Singh Grewal of the SAD was keen to contest the seat but the BJP refused to part with it. Grewal is interested again, and so are two Akali councillors. Bhandari is halqa in-charge, so far.
The BJP also wants to give up Rajpura, because Raj Khurana lost it badly last time. The SAD wanted the seat for Deepinder Dhillon, who has joined the Congress. So far, the BJP and the SAD have no tangible candidate for the constituency.
The saffron party wants to give Abohar to the SAD, which wanted it for liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda but now might not, as Doda is in jail since January over the lynching of Dalit man Bhim Tank. The BJP’s Vijay Laxmi Bhadoo, Ram Kumar Goyal, and Sandeep Rinwa are in the race for ticket, but the BJP will find it tough to match the popularity of three-time Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar.
In Mansa, Akali MLA Prem Mittal has lost favour with the party and has said he is unwilling to contest. The BJP wants the seat for Neeraj Tayal, son of Hit Abhilashi, a tall leader whom terrorists had killed. Giving away the seat may not be an issue for the SAD, so the BJP sees hope.
The BJP also seeks Garhshankar for senior leader Avinash Rai Khanna, two-time MLA before becoming the Rajya Sabha member. When Khanna became MP, the BJP gave the seat to the SAD in 2012.
His tenure as MP ended about six months ago and the party wants him back in state politics. Sitting Akali MLA Surinder Singh Bhulkewal Rathan wants Dasuya in exchange, where the BJP’s Sukhjit Kaur Shahi is legislator and her party feels strong.
Commenting on the swapping arrangement, state BJP unit president Vijay Sampla said “it will depend on the partner’s agreeing”.