As Mansa Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Prem Kumar Mittal has shown willingness to contest the upcoming elections from Ludhiana, several ticket aspirants within the party have shown willingness to contest the election from here which, many consider unsafe for the party going by the past record.
In the last five assembly elections, Congress candidate Sher Singh Gagowal won in ‘92, lost it to SAD candidate Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh in ’97 and regained it in 2002 and 2007. SAD then parachuted Prem Mittal from Ludhiana to contest from this seat in 2012, which he won by a margin of more than 1,300 votes.
Prem Mittal was seen as the Hindu face of the party in this region. But, his tenure saw him being sidelined and ridiculed by the Badal family.
In one such incident in November 2012, in a response to Prem Mittal’s request of developmental work, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal publicly asked him not to bother about development and keep attending funeral and marriage ceremonies in the constituency as the development work would be taken care of by Bathinda MP and his daughter-in-law Harismrat Kaur Badal. Last year, Mittal conveyed to Sukhbir Badal that he wanted to shift his political base to his home district Ludhiana. “I am still a candidate for the upcoming assembly elections from Mansa though I will prefer to contest it from Ludhiana,” said Mittal.
Since then the party has been grooming Prem Kumar Arora, who was also appointed chairman of the district planning board. Arora, an established scrap dealer-turned-politician, got into news during 2014 general elections when Manpreet Badal and Bhagwant Mann had alleged that Sukhbir Badal has been harassing the Arora family for political funding and the former has even moved to Haryana. Later, after the elections, Arora joined the party and was elected the urban president of the party in Mansa, which many saw as a damage control move by the party to shun allegations of harassment.
Last year he was appointed as chairman of the district planning board, which didn’t go down well with many party workers. Though, he doesn’t hold much of a clout in rural areas, he is now one of the most prominent faces of the party in the district. “I am a rags-to-riches story in the city and I am quite hopeful that none of the party workers would have ever got hurt with my behaviour. I am an aspirant for the ticket and I am quite sure that I will take along everyone well.”
Another senior party leader from Bathinda has been eyeing the ticket from Mansa. Jagdeep Singh Nakai, an ex-MLA from Joga (erstwhile an assembly seat now merged in Mansa) and chairman of district planning board of Bathinda, has been frequently attending public and privately held gatherings in the district in the last couple of months. Taking a barb at his rival Arora, Nakai feels that newly entrant and businessmen-turned-politicians can never be sound leaders. “If new entrants are promoted like this, it certainly betrays the old timers and party workers who have been working on the ground.”
Having sound educational qualification and considered close to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, Nakai, unlike his rival, doesn’t shy away from claiming that he holds a formidable vote bank in Mansa.
Former MLA Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, currently the chairman of the Punseed, is seen as another aspirant. A must seen face managing the stage at sangat darshans in rural areas, the two-time MLA is known to be close to union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal. When he lost the elections in 2007, he was denied ticket in 2012 assembly elections, but and was later accommodated as the Punseed chairman.