Bypolls: Outsider in Ludhiana’s Dakha, former political secy banks on CM
Contesting from an assembly segment that has not been a Congress stronghold as seen in the last three elections, Congress candidate captain Sandeep Singh Sandhu, a parachute candidate, is banking on close associate Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh as he campaigns in villages across Dakha.
The segment comprises a municipal council having 13 wards and 110 villages heavily populated by NRIs.
Without doubt, the bypolls to be held on October 21, promise to be a tough fight for Sandhu who faces competition from Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Manpreet Ayali and Lok Insaaf’s Party candidate Sukhdev Singh, who has been fielded by MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains. In the Parliamentary elections held in May this year, Bains took the lead in Dakha with 44,938 votes followed by Congress leader Ravneet Singh Bittu who got 43,664 votes from this segment.
Sandhu, however, does not see Bains as a threat. “Had Bains himself been contesting from Dakha, it would have been different. He has only fielded a candidate from his side. Residents of Dakha have always voted for a strong face. Which is why HS Phoolka won from here because they saw him as a future chief minister,” says Sandhu.
As he campaigns in village Changan, one cannot miss the repeated references Sandhu makes to the CM in his speech. “I was comfortable working with the CM in Chandigarh. Why do you think I came here? I have a steady association with the Captain for over 12 years and know how to do groundwork,” he says.
Punjab food and supply minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu did admit that the start of the campaign in Dakha was a bit tough as they faced resistance, but now, he claims it has been a smooth ride as Sandhu is visiting villages.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, Congress’s Jassi Khangura had lost to SAD’s Manpreet Ayali by 16,388 votes.
In 2014, when Aam Aadmi Party entered politics in the state Lok Sabha polls, they fielded advocate HS Phoolka who took the lead in Dakha by securing 62,359 votes, followed by SAD’s Ayali’s 40,736 votes, while Congress’s Bittu secured 29,893 votes from here. While Bittu won the Ludhiana Parliamentary seat, he trailed in Dakha segment.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, Phoolka bagged 58,923 votes and was elected MLA, after defeating Ayali who got 54,754 votes.