Poll fever rises in Punjab

PTI | ByPress Trust of India, Chandigarh
May 06, 2004 08:57 PM IST

Key political alliances in Punjab are leaving nothing to chance in their last minute effort to woo voters as 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state go for polls on May 10.

Key political alliances in Punjab are leaving nothing to chance in their last minute effort to woo voters as 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state go for polls on May 10 deciding the electoral fate of Sukhbir Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Vinod Khanna (BJP), Navjot Singh Sidhu among others.

HT Image
HT Image

Congress has entered into an alliance with the CPI and CPM in the state, where Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine will jointly test the electoral waters.

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Both the political alliances had launched a high power campaign in the state with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BSP chief Mayawati addressing a series of rallies to ensure win for their party candidates.

The May 10 polls would seal the electoral fate of Praneet Kaur (Congress) wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wife, Naresh Gujaral (SAD), the son of former Prime Minister I K Gujral, former Youth Congress chief Munish Tewari, SAD Youth wing chief Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar's daughter-in-law Karan Brar, and five-time MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder and Raghunandan Lal Bhatia of Congress.

Besides politicians, the region also witnessed several film stars like Sanjay Dutt, Poonam Dhillon, Suniel Shetty, and Zeenat Aman hitting the campaign trail on behalf of various candidates.

Most of the constituencies in the state are set to witness a virtual straight contest.

In a whirlwind campaign, Gandhi addressed a series of rallies at Pathankot, Phagwara, Sunam with BJP stalwarts Vajpayee and Advani campaigning in Patiala.

The SAD has fielded candidates on 10 seats while its partner BJP contesting in three constituencies.

Punjab BJP chief Avinash Rai Khanna trying his luck from Hoshiarpur, while filmstar-turned politician Vinod Khanna is contesting from Gurdaspur and cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu batting it out from Amritsar.

Congress is contesting 11 seats in the state leaving Bhatinda for CPI and Hoshiarpur for CPM.

Shiromani Akali Dal, which got a drubbing in the 1999 general elections when Congress and its allies won nine of the 13 seats, wants to give Congress a run for its money.

The Congress is leaving no stone unturned to repeat its performance of 1999, but "infighting" and fielding of "outsiders" at several constituencies by the party is becoming a stumbling block in its plan to unsettle the SAD apple cart.

The Congress and the SAD not only used election meetings as a platform to level charges and counter charges on one another but also widely used print medium to insert "surrogate" advertisements highlighting each others' "shortcomings."

At stake is prestige of Badal, Gujral and Amarinder Singh as their relatives are in the fray from Faridkot (Sukhbir), Jalandhar (Naresh Gujral) and Patiala (Praneet Kaur) Lok Sabha constituencies.

Congress has re-nominated five of the eight candidates who won in 1999 election, while the SAD has put up one of its two winner five years back.

BJP has re-nominated its sole winner Union Minister Vinod Khanna. Prominent among others trying their luck include SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann who is contesting from Sangru seat and widow of Bhan Singh Bhauara of CPI, Khushal Bhaura from Bathinda.

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