On the eve of a crucial meeting of the Punjab Congress election committee to shortlist candidates for the assembly polls due early next year, state unit chief Capt Amarinder Singh has said there will no change in seats of sitting MLAs, except some swaps of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) to counter local anti-incumbency.
But the meeting is set to be a stormy affair as, unlike in the past when the panel passed a one-line resolution “to empower the high command to take decisions”, at least two top leaders have called for detailed discussions.
The party aims to release the first list in the first half of December.
Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa said, “We will not allow anyone to take a unilateral decision. On the basis of surveys that were never shown to anyone in the past, tickets were awarded to favourites.”
He also said new entrants to the party should not be given the ticket for at least three years, and cited a central party decision at a conclave in Jaipur. Recent entrants include former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, former MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria, and singer-politician Hans Raj Hans.
He called for finalising three to four names for every seat. On the one-family-one-ticket rule, he said, “If it is to be implemented, there should be no exception.”
“For our consecutive losses, selection of candidates has been blamed,” he underlined, adding that all 34 members of the committee should be able to discuss surveys, if any. “The committee has been formed by party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, not for passing a single-line resolution. I will initiate the discussion.”
Another committee member, MLA Brahm Mohindra, said, “Let there be a resolution to empower the high command to take the final decision, but we must deliberate on all candidates and send panels of names.”
No change in kin rule, no swaps: captain
Amarinder told HT that he is also in favour of discussion, “but there will be no discussion on the one family-one ticket rule formula”.
Sources said leaders such as Lal Singh and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal have told their supporters in the committee to call for repeal of the rule. Bajwa too is hoping to get a ticket for a family member while his fellow Rajya Sabha MP, Shamsher Singh Dullo, is keen on a ticket for his wife.
On the desire of some MLAs to change seats, Amarinder said, “No request from general-category MLAs will be considered for change,” hinting that Bhattal will have to contest from Lehra, from where the SAD has fielded finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa.
“The state panel’s recommended list will be sent to the party’s central election committee, which will further take a decision; and we hope candidates will be declared in the first week of December,” he added.