Lok Sabha election: Congress banks on old warhorse Bansal in Chandigarh again
The “tried and tested” Pawan Kumar Bansal, 70, once again emerged as the Congress choice for the Chandigarh parliamentary seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, dashing the hopes of heavyweights Navjot Kaur Sidhu and former Union minister Manish Tewari, who had thrown their hats in the ring in January last week.
“Bansal’s winnability, loyality to the party and even personal connect with the local cadre went in his favour,” said Asha Kumari, in-charge of party affairs for the city, after the Congress central election committee headed by president Rahul Gandhi cleared his name on Tuesday evening. “The party will surely win the elections in Chandigarh under Bansal’s leadership,” she said.
The past two months have witnessed a bitter war of words among the three ticket claimants and their supporters as the fissures deepened. “I did not pay any heed to it. Ultimately, it was for the party’s top leadership to decide. I am grateful to the Congress president and members of the election committee for reposing confidence in me,” said Bansal, as his supporters celebrated outside his house in Sector 28.
When the city goes to polls on May 19, it will be Bansal’s eighth straight contest ever since he was given the Congress ticket for the first time in 1991. Managing to win four times, he lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Satya Pal Jain twice in the 90s and to the saffron party’s Kirron Kher in the last elections.
Overcame controversies, rivals
A lawyer-turned-politician, Bansal was dragged into several controversies from the booth scam to Railgate in his four-decade-long political career. While he often called these controversies “political victimisation”, Bansal dodged all of them and managed to get the party’s backing at crucial times.
This time, too, as Tewari and Navjot Kaur built up pressure on him, he tackled it smartly, first getting the support of the local party unit that he has nurtured for years and then using his connections at the top to secure the nomination.
A close confidant of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Bansal handled several ministries, including parliamentary affairs and railways, during the 10-year United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule at the Centre.
Local Congress leader Devinder Babla, who was among the endorsers of his name from Chandigarh, said the party does not have a better candidate than Bansal, “who has a strong personal connect with not only the cadre but also the public”.
Both Tewari and Navjot Kaur could not be reached for comments, even as their supporters were left dejected.
Tewari, it is learnt, was backed for the ticket in the bordering Anandpur Sahib constituency, which also covers Mohali. Sources said his candidature faced a stiff opposition during the panel meeting, following which the final decision was deferred. Meanwhile, Navjot Kaur is left with limited options after the party fielded the sitting Congress MP from Amritsar, the seat previously held by her husband Navjot Singh Sidhu.