The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Sunday announced former minister and its scheduled caste (SC) wing president Gulzar Singh Ranike as its candidate from the Faridkot parliamentary constituency.Ranike (61) was chosen over former MLA and retired Punjab and Haryana high court judge Nirmal Singh and Joginder Singh Punjgrian who recently joined SAD after quitting the Congress. He made the cut as he is believed to have a stranglehold on the Dalit community which has a sizeable presence in the segment. Besides, the four-time MLA from Attari is a confidante of the Badal family.Ranike is pitted against former MLA Mohammad Sadique of the Congress and sitting MP Sadhu Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Ranike and Sadique are from outside the constituency.The seat holds a special significance in the soon-to-be-held elections as Faridkot remained the epicentre of sacrilege incidents and subsequent anti-desecration protests and police firing that rocked the state in 2015 when the Akalis were in power. Ranike will have a huge challenge at hand as a huge public anger got built up against SAD at that time and thereafter. SAD president Sukhbir Badal is believed to have experimented by bringing in Ranike to Faridkot to reign in infighting in the party and bring the local flock together.“The party had detailed discussions and then decided to field Ranike from the segment as he was seen as the best option keeping in mind the present scenario,” said party spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema.Ranike said, “I am not new to the constituency. I have been visiting the entire state as the SC wing head of my party. I am a consensus candidate and therefore I am confident of a good result.”“The desecration incidents were condemnable and the culprits should be punished,” he added. With this, the party has announced seven candidates of a total of 10 constituencies it contests in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) that fights from three seats — Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.SAD is still to announce candidates for Bathinda, Ferozopur and Ludhiana seats.Sukhpal Khaira-led Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) has fielded Mastar Baldev Singh while the SAD (Taksali) is still to announce its candidate on the seat.