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In Punjab, Congress and SAD bet on 2017 losers in 2019 Lok Sabha elections

The Congress and the SAD, the two traditional rivals in Punjab, who dominated the state politics for decades, have fallen back on losers of the 2017 state assembly elections for key Lok Sabha seats in the May19 slugfest in the state.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 13:20 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
lok sabha elections 2019,lok sabha polls in punjab,congress
Gulzar Singh Ranike (left) is the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from Faridkot Lok Sabha seat while Kewal Singh Dhillon (right) has been fielded by the Congress from Sangrur. (HT Photos )

As they get set to take on each other in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have one thing in common.

The two traditional rivals, who dominated the state politics for decades, have fallen back on losers of the 2017 state assembly elections for key Lok Sabha seats in the May 19 slugfest in the state.

The ruling Congress has fielded four candidates who ended up in the runners-up column in the state polls two years ago, whereas three such candidates figure among the nominees announced by the opposition SAD.

In its list of 11 candidates named so far, the Congress, which stormed to power after a gap of 10 years in 2017 with an emphatic two-thirds majority in the 117-strong state assembly, has bet on retired IAS officer Amar Singh from Fatehgarh Sahib reserved seat, folk singer-turned-politician Mohammad Sadique from Faridkot, Kewal Singh Dhillon from Sangrur and Sunil Jakhar from Gurdaspur.

Amar Singh and Sadique had suffered defeat in Raikot and Jaitu reserved constituencies, respectively, by about 10,000 votes each whereas Dhillon and Jakhar lost by small margins from Barnala and Abohar seats, respectively.

While Jakhar, who was made president of Punjab Congress in May 2017, later scored a massive victory in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election and has been re-nominated from the seat, chief minister Amarinder Singh is learnt to have pushed the candidature of the other three.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Key players and issues in Punjab

The SAD, which fell on hard times after its worst-ever defeat that saw the party drop to number three position in the seat tally in assembly elections, has named its candidates for eight of the 10 constituencies it is contesting in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Of them, three – former ministers Gulzar Singh Ranike and Surjit Singh Rakhra, and former IAS officer Darbara Singh Guru – were among the party leaders who could not win their seats in 2017.

Ranike and Rakhra, who lost by about 10,000 votes, have been fielded from Faridkot and Patiala whereas Guru, who lost assembly elections in 2012 and 2017, is the Akali candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib. The former bureaucrat was at the third position in Bassi Pasthana reserved constituency in his last outing.

A SAD leader said the party had won few seats with many senior ministers and leaders suffering defeat in the state elections. “The reason the party has fielded some of them is because it had little choice,” he said, refusing to comment on ticket to Guru.

Also Read | Shiromani Akali Dal banks on party veterans on six seats

Prof Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science, Panjab University, said the dependence on such candidates was not only due to non-availability of strong candidates but loyalty factor was also at play in case of some candidates. “If the SAD struggled to find strong contestants and has had to settle for defeated nominees, Congress leaders have pushed their loyalists,” he said.

Similarly, the infighting-ridden Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the principal opposition party in the state assembly, has also fielded Dr Ravjot Singh and Narinder Shergill from Hoshiarpur (SC) and Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seats.

Ravjot had suffered defeat at the hands of Pawan Adia of the Congress in Sham Chaurasi (SC) assembly seat by 3,815 votes and Shergill lost in SAS Nagar by a whopping 28,000 votes.

Among others, two sitting MPs Bhagwant Mann and Ravneet Bittu of the AAP and Congress respectively, who took on SAD chief Sukhbir Badal in Jalalabad, had also found themselves in the loser’s list. Both are contesting their respective parliamentary seats again.

Six sitting MLAs are also adding to proliferation of faces from the last assembly polls.

Rebel AAP legislators Sukhpal Khaira and Baldev Singh who formed their separate Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) are contesting from Bathinda and Faridkot seats. Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur is the official AAP candidate from Bathinda.

While Congress MLA Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal is contesting from Hoshiarpur, SAD has fielded Lehra MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa from Sangrur seat. Atam Nagar legislator Simarjeet Singh Bains of the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) is in the fray from Ludhiana.

Lok Sabha election dates announced: Know when your state goes to polls

For complete coverage of Lok Sabha Elections 2019, click here

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 13:06 IST