As the poll fever catches up in Punjab despite cash crunch, political outfits are facing another crunch—of candidates.
A large number of parties and outfits are interested in fielding candidates in the high-stakes polls. But the hunt for suitable candidates is becoming quite an exercise, at least for the new and lesser-known outfits.
The Aapna Punjab Party (APP), led by the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, has named 30 candidates till date. The hunt for the next set of 50 candidates is on and the list will be announced soon.
“The idea is to give the voter a better option. Our candidates have been widely accepted,” says Col Jasjit Singh Gill (Retd), vice-president of the party and member of its screening committee. The party is eating into the cadre of AAP volunteers, its ticket hopefuls and office-bearers who have shown resentment with AAP. “The problem is not the candidates but suitable candidates who can fund their election campaign,” he added.
The Punjab Front, led by suspended AAP MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, is also on a “candidate-hunting” spree after announcing its first list of 15 candidates. “Potential candidates are approaching us. Other than the fact that they are honest and hard-working men and women, we have to make sure that they abide by our common minimum programme. Also, we have to make sure that they will not be bought over,” said Prof Manjit Singh, a Punjab Front leader. While announcing his first list of candidates, Gandhi had to even issue an invitation to the unhappy AAP volunteers to join them.
Jagmeet Singh Brar-led Trinamool Congress will also begin looking for candidates in case its expected tie-up with AAP fails.
SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann is also looking for candidates. Mann had last week announced that his party will be fielding candidates on all the 117 assembly seats.
But finding candidates and fielding them is easier said than done.
Swaraj India, the party led by former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav, decided not to contest the polls this time. The party’s preparatory committee chairman Rajiv Godara says they would support candidates fielded by the Punjab Front. “We are still strengthening our organisation in the state and we don’t want to take the plunge till we are completely ready. It is of no use to field one or two candidates from here and there,” he said.
The newly formed National Freedom Party, spearheaded by New Delhi-based think tank ‘Vivekananda Foundation’ had in September announced that the party will contest on all seats in Punjab. However, in October they decided to support the Chhotepur-led APP instead of going solo.
Another party –the Punjab Democratic Party—issued an advertisement last month seeking candidates for polls. Party president Guriqbal Singh said the advertisement attracted a good response and more than 900 persons applied. “However, we are looking for candidates who are honest and will work with dedication,” he said. The party is yet to announce most of its candidates.
Independent MLAs Simarjeet Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains, who had got their outfit registered as Punjab Insaaf Party, have tied up with the AAP to field joint candidates on five seats.