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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Shiromani Akali Dal banks on party veterans on six seats

The Shiromani Akali Dal’s move to field veterans in Lok Sabha elections is being seen as a course correction as party president Sukhbir Singh Badal wants to project that he is not opposed to the party elders.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 15, 2019 14:41 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Shiromani Akali Dal has fielded Bibi Jagir Kaur (left) from Khadoor Sahib and PS Chandumajra from the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seats in 2019 general elections.
Shiromani Akali Dal has fielded Bibi Jagir Kaur (left) from Khadoor Sahib and PS Chandumajra from the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seats in 2019 general elections. (HT Photos)
         

In a bid to counter the criticism that party president Sukhbir Singh Badal was giving veterans a short shrift, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has fielded the old guard from six parliamentary constituencies.

The party has announced Charanjit Singh Atwal, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Surjit Singh Rakhra, Maheshinder Singh Grewal and Bibi Jagir Kaur — all old warhorses — from Jalandhar, Faridkot, Patiala, Ludhiana and Khadoor Sahib segments, respectively, besides sitting MP Prem Singh Chandumajra from Anandpur Sahib.

The move is being seen as a course correction as Sukhbir wants to project that he is not opposed to the party elders.

Last year, infighting hit the party in the wake of Taksali leaders raising a banner of revolt against Sukhbir’s leadership. It started with secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa resigning from all party posts. Though he cited health reasons behind his exit initially, he later questioned Sukhbir’s leadership.

Days after, three SAD stalwarts from Majha — Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan — were expelled from the party when they also questioned Sukhbir’s style of functioning.

The trio formed a breakaway faction, SAD (Taksali), having fielded candidates in the Lok Sabha polls.

Surjit Singh Rakhra (left)  is SAD’s Patiala candidate and Maheshinder Singh Grewal has been fielded from Ludhiana.
Surjit Singh Rakhra (left) is SAD’s Patiala candidate and Maheshinder Singh Grewal has been fielded from Ludhiana. ( HT Photos )

“They (the five candidates) are senior and experienced leaders with a strong poll record. I have full faith in them as they enjoy a good reputation. They were selected by building a consensus among the halqa in-charges and MLAs in all assembly constituencies,” Sukhbir said.

“Jagir Kaur (former SGPC president) has strong panthic credentials, Ranike ji has worked hard for the scheduled castes as head of our party’s SC wing and Atwal saab is a seasoned leader,” he added.

At the same time, it will be a test of popularity for the veterans. In an experiment, the party has moved three of them out of their strongholds – Jagir Kaur from Bholath in Doaba to Khadoor Sahib in Majha, Atwal from Fatehgarh Sahib to Jalandhar and Ranike from Attari to Faridkot.

Charanjit Singh Atwal (left) and  Gulzar Singh Ranike are SAD’s Lok Sabha candidates from Jalandhar and Faridkot seats respectively.
Charanjit Singh Atwal (left) and Gulzar Singh Ranike are SAD’s Lok Sabha candidates from Jalandhar and Faridkot seats respectively. ( HT Photos )

Moreover, the real test is for Ranike on the Faridkot seat as the district was the epicentre of the 2015 sacrilege and police firing incidents, resulting in the death of two protesters, leading to anti-Akali anger among Sikhs.

Of the 10 seats the party contests in alliance with BJP, the Akali Dal has announced candidates on eight with announcement for Bathinda and Ferozpur segments still pending.

While Darbara Singh Guru, a former bureaucrat, is contesting from Fatehgarh Sahib, ex-finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa is in the fray from Sangrur. Making Parminder contest is a tactical move to weaken his father Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s voice of dissent against the party.

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 14:41 IST

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