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Simmering trouble: Of 30 rebels in the fray, 10 likely to spoil Cong’s Punjab poll party

On the last day of withdrawing nomination on Saturday, the Congress efforts to douse rebel trouble on key seats met with some success. Nine rebels withdrew their candidature but the party’s woes are far from over. Like in the 2012 elections, 30 remained in the fray, some of them potential spoilers.

assembly elections Updated: Jan 22, 2017 10:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab polls,Capatin Amarinder Singh,Congress
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh (HT File Photo)

On the last day of withdrawing nomination on Saturday, the Congress efforts to douse rebel trouble on key seats met with some success. Nine rebels withdrew their candidature but the party’s woes are far from over. Like in the 2012 elections, 30 remained in the fray, 10 of them potential spoilers.

With no withdrawal on many seats, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh betrayed his anxiety, like he did on the eve of 2012 elections, warning rebels of stern action. Ruling out any “ghar wapsi” (homecoming) for them, Amarinder said he would ensure the trend of forgiveness is brought to an end.

As the party scaled up its efforts to pacify rebels, Satinder Singh Chhajjalwaddi, son of three-time MLA Ranjit Singh Chhajjalwaddi, withdrew his candidature from the Baba Bakala assembly seat on Saturday. Speaking to HT, the former MLA said he decided to withdraw his son’s nomination on Amarinder’s request. “I have changed my decision following Amarinder’s assurance,” he said.

However, six Congress rebels — Maninder Singh Palasaur (Amritsar South), Mandeep Singh Manna (Amritsar East), Ashok Sharma (Pathankot), Naresh Puri (Sujanpur), Vinay Mahajan (Sujanpur) and Rumal Chand (Bhoa) are still in the fray in the Majha region.

The Congress heaved a sigh of relief as the Barnal family agreed to beat retreat. Harpeet Kaur Barnala, wife of Gaganjit Singh Barnala, withdrew her nomination as an Independent from the Dhuri segment. She had filed her papers after Congress refused to give the seat to the Barnala family in favour of youth candidate Dalvir Singh Goldy.

In Mansa, Congress rebel Gurpreet Kaur Gagowal withdrew her nomination on Saturday after she had a meeting with Amarinder’s son Raninder. “We are very close to the royal family and we never defy their orders,” Gurpreet said.

Another rebel, Gurpreet Vicky, said he was approached by close aide of Congress vicepresident Rahul Gandhi to withdraw his papers. Both, however, maintained that they will not campaign for party candidate Manju Bansal.

In Ludhiana, Punjab general secretary Gurmail Pahelwan withdrew his nomination on Saturday from the Ludhiana East constituency but Congress councillor Hemraj Aggarwal did not relent and is contesting from Ludhiana North. “The party chief asked me to withdraw nomination and I agreed,” Pahelwan said.

But Doaba continued to simmer. The maximum rebellion in the party is being witnessed at Hoshiarpur where the party is facing revolt on four out of eight seats.

After the last day of withdrawal of candidates, the Congress was fire-fighting revolt on seven of the 23 seats in Doaba. In Garhshankar, party spokesperson Nimisha Mehta refused to budge. In Dasuya, former SAD leader Babbu Ghuman, refused to withdraw his nomination and at Mukerian, Congress zila parishad member from Talwara, Paramjit Singh, will be contesting against party nominee and MLA Rajnish Babbi.

In Chabbewal, the party failed to call truce with former district Youth Congress committee president Balwinder Singh Chaudhary and in Banga, sitting MLA Tarlochan Singh Soondh is proving hard to tame for the party. Party sources say Congress campaign managers, including Amarinder, poll strategist Prashant Kishor and a few senior leaders from Delhi tried to calm down Soondh, but to no avail.

Another potential spoiler for the party is Nakodar rebel and former MLA Gurbinder Atwal. It is learnt that Congress secretary in-charge for Punjab Harish Chaudhary tried his best to convince Atwal to withdraw his nomination, but it proved futile. Congress’ Jalandhar West rebel and former mayor Surinder Mahey refused to meet Chaudhary and is taking on party’s official candidate Sushil Rinku.

Party insiders believe Soondh, Atwal and Nimisha can prove as spoilers and others are not a real threat. “All these rebels will fetch less votes as per our calculations as people know who is sponsoring these rebels,” said former minister Amarjit Samra, who is managing affairs for Jalandhar district.

In Sangrur, Rajinder Deepa, who has already resigned from the party, is contesting against Daman Thind Bajwa. Another rebel, Darshan Singh Sidhu, a former tehsildar, is still in the fray from Dirba against Congress candidate, Ajaib Singh and Sham Singh Makror, a former chairman of zila parishad, from Lehra seat of former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

The uneasiness in the Congress has Akali leaders upbeat. “In these polls, even a dent of 1,000 to 2,000 votes will matter,” a senior Akali leader said. And the new entrants such as Aapna Punjab Party are making hay out as heartburn in the Congress.

The APP of Sucha Singh Chhotepur has fielded three Congress rebels and Trinamool Congress now being led by expelled Congress rebel Jagmeet Brar, too, has announced to support his former partymen by fielding or supporting a few.

(With inputs from Mandi Gobindgarh, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Sangrur)

First Published: Jan 22, 2017 10:37 IST