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Sukhbir Badal’s move to contest from Ferozepur Lok Sabha seat a bold but risky gambit

The Shiromani Akali Dal, which is contesting 10 of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had already announced its nominees for eight seats. On Tuesday, the party announced the candidature of party president Sukhbir Singh Badal from Ferozepur and his wife Harsimrat Kaur from Bathinda.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 24, 2019 13:43 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
lok sabha elections 2019,sukhbir singh badal,harsimrat kaur
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Ferozepur seat. (PTI)

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s move to contest from Ferozepur Lok Sabha constituency is a gutsy gambit to stay in the game.

Sukhbir’s entry, along with his wife and sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is seeking re-election from Bathinda, will not only show he is leading from the front and is in command of the party, it will also fire up the Akali cadres left demoralised after dismal showing in the state assembly polls and the anti-party sentiment over their government’s handling of sacrilege incidents.

This is the first time in the party’s 98-year history that the SAD president and his wife are in the poll fray. The announcement was made by Akali patriarch and five-time former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in keeping with its significance both for the party and the family. The SAD, which is contesting 10 of the 13 seats in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had already announced its nominees for eight seats.

Badals hedge their bets

A known risk-taker, Sukhbir appears to have not just hedged his bets by jumping into the electoral fight, but also done some forward planning with an eye on their future share in power at the Centre. The implicit calculation is that if they win both Bathinda and Ferozepur , it will be a shot in the arm for the Badal family.

In case they get one of the two seats, it will not be a bad scorecard and enable the winning Badal family member to have a role in the government at the Centre in case the Narendra Modi-led NDA, of which the SAD is a constituent, get the numbers to form its government again. At the same time, the move is fraught with danger as it is likely to confine Sukhbir, who is leading the poll campaign as Badal senior has taken a backseat, to these two seats due to high stakes

involved. But, in a worst case scenario, if both Sukhbir and Harsimrat lose their seats, it will be a huge blow for the family and the party.

Also Read | Lok Sabha elections 2019: Akali citadel Ferozepur constituency is a tough challenge

Ferozepur considered safe seat

Harsimrat, whose margin of victory saw a sharp dip in 2014, is facing a tough fight due to the prevailing anti-Akali sentiment after the sacrilege incidents whereas Ferozepur is considered a safe bet for the former deputy chief minister. It has largely remained untouched by the antisacrilege protests. Also, Sukhbir had nurtured Ferozepur, particularly

Jalalabad assembly constituency, well after winning the 2009 bypoll by 70,662 votes, pumping in huge amount of funds for development. He went on to win the seat in 2012 and 2017 though with lower margins. The Congress has fielded his one-time protégé and sitting MP Sher Singh Ghubaya who switched sides a few days ago. Ghubaya belongs to Rai Sikh community that has a strong presence in the constituency, but is facing dissidence as none of the five Congress MLAs in his parliamentary constituency turned up when he launched his campaign. Other local leaders also stayed away.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Key players and issues in Punjab

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 13:43 IST

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