Channi, Sidhu in Congress’s list of 86 candidates for Punjab assembly elections
The Congress on Saturday announced its first list of 86 candidates for the February 14 assembly elections in Punjab, relying mostly on old party hands to retain power in the state.
The list includes chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu and 58 other sitting legislators of the party.
Channi has been fielded from the Chamkaur Sahib constituency, where he has won three consecutive elections, while Sidhu will again contest from Amritsar East.
Deputy chief ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni, cabinet ministers Manpreet Singh Badal, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Randeep Singh Nabha and Pargat Singh, Vidhan Sabha speaker Rana Kanwar Pal Singh are among the senior party leaders on the list.
All cabinet ministers, except six-time MLA Brahm Mohindra, have been fielded from their present seats, according to the list released by Mukul Wasnik, Congress general secretary in-charge of central election committee.
The list was released after the party’s central election committee chaired by interim president Sonia Gandhi cleared the names in its meeting held on Thursday. Of the 86 candidates, 46 are from Malwa and 20 each from the Majha and Doaba regions. Punjab has 117 assembly constituencies.
The other prominent name missing from the list is former Punjab Congress president and campaign committee chairman Sunil Jakhar, whose nephew Sandeep Jakhar will be the party’s candidate from Abohar. Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa has been fielded from Qadian in place of his brother and sitting MLA Fatehjung Singh Bajwa, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last month after the former threw his hat in the ring.
The Congress, which replaced Amarinder Singh as the chief minister four months ago, was expected to replace several sitting legislators. However, it has played safe, repeating all MLAs, except four, in its first list. Among those who have been dropped are deputy speaker and three-time Malout MLA Ajaib Singh Bhatti, two-time Balluana MLA Nathu Ram, and first-timers Harjot Kamal Singh and Balwinder Singh Laddi from Moga and Sri Hargobindpur, respectively.
Malvika Sood, Moosewala get nod
Actor Sonu Sood’s sister Malvika Sood Sachar and controversial Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala are among the 15 fresh faces given tickets by the party in its first list. Welcomed into the party by Channi and Sidhu on Monday, Sachar has got the ticket from Moga.
Sachar had made clear her intention to contest the upcoming elections even before joining the party, and both she and her brother were already campaigning in the constituency.
The announcement of Moosewala’s name from Mansa has triggered a revolt by sitting MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia, who had defected to the Congress from the AAP in May 2019.
Since the party has not named any chief ministerial face and is going into the elections under the “collective leadership” of Channi, Sidhu and Jakhar, there has been jockeying for the lion’s share of party tickets, which might come into play in deciding the new chief minister if the party is able to get the numbers required to retain power in the state.