High stakes battle on cards in Patiala as turncoat royal faces realtor, two doctors in Lok Sabha polls - Hindustan Times
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High stakes battle on cards in Patiala as turncoat royal faces realtor, two doctors in Lok Sabha polls

ByKaram Prakash, Patiala
Apr 17, 2024 07:38 AM IST

While Preneet followed her husband into the saffron fold, SAD has bet on a Hindu face, NK Sharma, AAP minister Dr Balbir Singh and Congress nominee Dr Dharamvira Gandhi making it an interesting contest

Sitting MP Preneet Kaur’s switch to the Bharatiya Janata Party changed the poll dynamics in the royal city, making it a high stakes battle for the Congress, Aam Adami Party and Shiromani Akali Dal.

Preneet Kaur, who followed her husband, Capt Amarinder Singh, to the BJP, is a four-time MP from Patiala, having won in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2019. (HT)
Preneet Kaur, who followed her husband, Capt Amarinder Singh, to the BJP, is a four-time MP from Patiala, having won in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2019. (HT)

While Congress responded by inducting former AAP MP and philanthropist Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who defeated Preneet in the 2014 Parliamentary polls, Akali Dal has fielded a Hindu face and a realtor, NK Sharma. AAP, which took the lead in announcing the candidate, put its faith in cabinet minister Dr Balbir Singh.

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Preneet, who followed her husband, Capt Amarinder Singh, to the saffron party, is a four-time MP from Patiala, having won in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2019.

The royal family clout in the constituency took a hit in the 2022 assembly polls, with AAP registering a sweeping win in all nine segments.

Congress’ Gandhi, who switched from AAP, is known for his social work. He defeated Preneet in 2014 and has a strong connection with the public due to his philanthropic activities and providing free healthcare to the needy and underprivileged. He has been running an NGO for the past 30 years. Gandhi was suspended from AAP after he questioned the party’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s policies. In 2019, he contested as an Nawan Punjab Party in 2019 from Patiala but lost.

Despite being hand-picked by the Congress high command, Gandhi, it is learnt is facing resentment as a few former MLAs are not happy with his selection and have termed him a ‘turncoat’.

Gandhi, however, brushed the opposition aside and said: “It is a fight to save the country and not a marriage function. He would focus his energy on the electorate and not on pleasing the sulky relatives of the (Congress) family.”

In the 2019 Parliamentary elections, Preneet Kaur had emerged victorious defeating SAD’s Surjit Singh Rakhra by a margin of 1.62 lakh votes. Gandhi, contesting on Nawan Punjab Party ticket, had finished third with 1.61 lakh votes.

Surprising many, SAD, a panthic party, has fielded a Hindu face, NK Sharma. He has been a two-time MLA from Dera Bassi and is being viewed as an ‘outsider’. The 54-year-old was picked, as per reports, after SAD’s first choice former minister Surjit Singh Rakhra expressed unwillingness to contest.

Sharma is the youngest among the candidates in the fray and is known for having risen from the grassroots electoral politics winning the election of Sarpanch in 1998. Sharma, who has already started his poll campaign, is targeting all three national parties – AAP, Congress, and BJP – for compromising the interests of the people of Punjab to please their national leaders in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Dr Balbir Singh, the incumbent state health and medical education minister, is banking on the work of the two-year tenure of AAP in Punjab. He is an MLA from Patiala Rural and is among the five ministers in the fray for AAP in Punjab.

Past winners

1999 - Preneet Kaur -Congress

2004 - Preneet Kaur -Congress

2009- Preneet Kaur - Congress

2014 - Dr Dharamvira Gandhi- AAP

2019 - Preneet Kaur - Congress

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