The resignation of Sarwan Singh Phillaur, a loyal and long-time aide of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, from the cabinet has saddled the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) with the task of finding his replacement from the Doaba region.
In Doaba, where the population of the Scheduled Caste (SC) community is more than 40%, giving representation to the community from the region is likely to remain a compulsion for the ruling party.
All of Phillaur’s possible replacements who represent SC - reserved assembly segments in Doaba fared badly in the recent Lok Sabha polls, be it Avinash Chander (Phillaur), Pawan Kumar Tinu (Adampur in Jalandhar district), Mohinder Kaur Josh (Sham Chaurasi in Hoshiarpur district) and Sohan Singh Thandal (Chabbewal in Hoshiarpur district).
These four SAD MLAs are working as chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) in the government and are eyeing the ministerial birth vacated by Phillaur.
Tinu, who was picked by SAD chief Sukhbir Badal as the candidate from Jalandhar LS seat, had lost to Congress nominee Chaudhary Santokh Singh.
He trailed from his own assembly segment, Adampur, by nearly 4,000 votes. From Phillaur, the SAD lagged behind the Congress by more than 17,000.
Though BJP’s Vijay Sampla won from Hoshiarpur, Thandal and Josh, both three-time MLAs, conceded lead to Congress. Banga and Phagwara, reserved segments in Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts of Doaba, respectively, are represented by Congress and BJP.
The SAD faces a major challenge in Doaba, where Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was almost wiped out.
“With the BSP’s vote share shifting to the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, the party will have to keep in mind its strategy for the SC community in Doaba while choosing Phillaur’s re placement,” a senior SAD functionary said.
Phillaur, who became MLA the first time in 1977, was number four in the cabinet after the CM, deputy CM and forest minister Chunni Lal Bhagat.