BJP picks Bagha, Mahajan for Phagwara, Mukerian bypolls
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announced former Punjab Scheduled Caste Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha and Jangi Lal Mahajan, a businessman, as its candidates for the Phagwara (reserved) and Mukerian seats for assembly bypolls to be held on October 21.
The Phagwara seat, which fell vacant after Som Parkash (now Union minister of state for commerce and industry) was fielded by the BJP from the Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha constituency in May this year, is set for a multi-cornered contest with the Congress, Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) having announced their candidates. The constituency is dominated by Dalit voters.
Bagha, 46, a hotel management graduate who comes from the Ravidasia community, will face Congress’ Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, a Valmiki and a former IAS officer.
Even as Som Parkash was rooting for his wife Sunita Parkash and the former Union minister Vijay Sampla was lobbying for his son Sahil, the BJP chose Bagha, who is not aligned with any faction in the party’s Punjab unit.
For Mukerian, the party high command ignored the claim of former minister and two-time MLA Arunesh Shakar, who in 2017 lost to the Congress’ Rajneesh Babbi by over 23,000 votes.
Mahajan, a local businessman who works as a distributor of various biri brands who had contested as an Independent, had managed to get 20,542 votes then.
Mahajan was expelled from the BJP for contesting as Independent but he rejoined the party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The party got a lead of more than 37,000 votes from the assembly segment in the 2019 parliamentary polls and is eyeing a victory.
The seat fell vacant in August after MLA Babbi’s death. The Congress has announced his wife Indu Bala as candidate for the bypoll.
Mahajan’s candidature has not gone down well with Shakar who along his supporters held a meeting and is likely to explore the possibility of fighting as Independent.
State BJP chief Shwait Malik said the party will win both the seats.
BJP’s alliance partner in Punjab Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is contesting from the Dakha and Jalalabad seats.
Som Parkash and Sampla welcomed the party’s selection of Rajesh Bagha as its candidate for the Phagwara bypoll even as the two were lobbying for their family members to get the ticket.