Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat: This Congress citadel continues to be a daunting challenge for SAD
While Congress’ sitting MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary is confident of securing the party ticket and getting re-elected from Jalandhar reserved (SC) seat, the SAD is struggling to find a befitting match for the battle.Updated: Feb 27, 2019 14:56 IST
The Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat (reserved) in the Dalit heartland of Doaba region, which has been the Congress citadel for the past four consecutive polls, continues to be a daunting challenge for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
While the Congress’ sitting MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary is confident of securing the party ticket and getting re-elected from the seat, the SAD is struggling to find a befitting match for the battle.
Significantly, SAD’s two Dalit sitting MLAs, Pawan Kumar Tinu from Adampur and Baldev Khaira from Phillaur, have reportedly shown unwillingness to take up the challenge.
The SAD has thus been pushing its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to swap this seat with neighbouring Hoshiarpur (SC) seat from where BJP’s Vijay Sampla was elected in 2014 and became Union minister for social justice and empowerment.
Though the ball is in the court of the BJP high command, Sampla himself is keen on taking on the Congress from this seat. In fact, he had nurtured his political career in Jalandhar before being made Lok Sabha candidate by BJP from Hoshiarpur in 2014.
A senior SAD leader said that in case the BJP agrees for the seat-swapping, it will benefit both the parties as Sampla has been facing anti-incumbency from Hoshiarpur. On the other hand, if he contests from Jalandhar, he could get the benefit of urban voters.
However, some leaders in the saffron party feel that winning the Jalandhar seat will not be a cakewalk for Sampla.
“The talks over the seat-swapping are on and the top leaders of both the parties have to take the final call,” said former SAD minister Bikram Singh Majithia, who is party in-charge for Jalandhar district.
The biggest worry for the SAD has been four urban-dominated assembly seats falling in Jalandhar city areas where the trends show the Congress getting decisive leads every time.
Sample this: In 2014 polls, SAD candidate Pawan Tinu had lost this Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 70,000 votes even as all the nine assembly segments falling under this constituency had SAD-BJP MLAs, who were all in a powerful position as the state was ruled by this alliance at that time. Tinu has decided not to contest this time, it is learnt.
SAD’s attempts to field heavyweights, including noted sufi singer Hansraj Hans in 2009 and former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s son Naresh Gujral in 2004 on this seat also failed because voters in the city areas overwhelming voted for the Congress.
This time, the SAD is reportedly considering the proposal to field an IAS officer belonging to Ravidassia community, who has recently retired. The name of a former senior superintendent of police (SSP) belonging to the Valmiki community is also in the reckoning, said an Akali leader, seeking anonymity.
The Dalit community in this constituency is divided sharply between Ravidassia and Valmiki voters. Ravidassias dominate the political scene in the Doaba region.
Can there be a son rise?
In the Congress, though there are strong chances that the party will put its weight behind Santokh Chaudhary, there are discussions going on within the Chaudhary family to seek ticket for his son Vikram Singh Chaudhary.
Vikram, an ex-president of the Punjab Youth Congress, had lost assembly elections from the family stronghold Phillaur in 2017.
However, the sitting MP was evasive when he was asked about the proposal to push his son’s candidature. “You may ask Vikram if he is interested,” he said.
Congress’ Jalandhar West MLA Sushil Kumar Rinku is also making desperate attempts to get the party ticket.
The BSP, who once used to be a key factor in Doaba, has lost its sheen in the region lately. In the 2014 elections, its candidate could get only 50,000 votes.
The BSP is yet to announce its strategy and since it is in talks with the newly formed Punjab Democratic Alliance, comprising Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) of Sukhpal Khaira, Lok Insaaf Party of Ludhiana-based Bains brothers and Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi’s front.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had sprung surprise in the last polls with its candidate Jyoti Maan getting over 1.5 lakh votes, is yet to accord priority to Jalandhar.
First Published: Feb 27, 2019 14:55 IST