Political resettlements have changed the battle scene for the Samana seat ticket dramatically in the past one month. Except Shiromani Akali Dal’s candidate cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, all ticket aspirants from other parties have switched their loyalty in the run up to the 2017 assembly polls.
Within a month, Congress heavy weight and ticket contender Jagtar Singh Rajla moved to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a force to reckon with in Patiala district, and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-appointee former information commissioner Harinder Pal Singh Harry Mann has joined the Congress.
However, claiming the Samana seat is not going to be a cakewalk for Mann, as he is not the only leader from the Congress eyeing the ticket from the seat. Former zila parishad chairperson Gursharan Kaur Randhawa and party heavyweight Lal Singh’s son Rajinder Singh are also working in the constituency and are strong contenders for the ticket.
In the 2012 assembly polls, the Congress had pitted Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Captain Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh from the Samana seat, but he lost to SAD candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra, who is now a cabinet minister in the Punjab Government.
Captain’s announcement of “one family-one ticket” has not only put Raninder out of the race, but it has also weakened the candidature of Rajinder Singh, as his father Lal Singh is a sitting member of legislative assembly (MLA) from Sanour.
It would be tough for Harry Mann to strengthen his position in Samana without having the blessing of Lal Singh, as nearly 54 villages of the erstwhile Dakala seat represented by the latter are now part of Samana. Lal Singh still holds considerable clout in these villages besides being close to the party high command.
Before joining the SAD, Harry Mann had served in various capacities in the Punjab Youth Congress and PCC. He served as the president of the district Congress committee, Patiala (rural), between 1995 and 1997 and was appointed the chairman of the Kisan Cell of the PCC by Capt Amarinder Singh in 1998. However, as he deserted the Congress after the denial of ticket in 2006, he was not in touch with the constituency.
The switching of loyalties by politicians has even left the party workers confused. Those Akalis who were with Harry Mann are now shying to join the Congress, while Congressmen who supported Rajla are in two minds about moving to the Congress fold.
Both Rajla and Harry Mann have switched parties in the past two elections, and have now joined other political outfits to get the assembly ticket. They will have a tough time convincing the traditional workers of their respective parties, said Shamsher Singh, a resident of Samana.