Punjab polls: Congress plays musical chairs on Dalit seats in Punjab, no word on SAD turncoats yet
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh seems to have set the rules of the ticket distribution game, even if he may not be able to have his way on candidate on every seat.
The second list of 16 candidates announced by the party on Friday showed that no exceptions are being allowed to Amarinder’s two diktats — ‘one family, one ticket’ and ‘swapping of only reserved seats’.
As part of the first rule, the Congress has tossed between youth and experience. It has bet on Sukhpal Bhullar (39), son of former state minister Gurchet Bhullar in the Khem Karan seat and renominated Samrala MLA Amrik Dhillon (74), whose 26-year-old grandson Karanvir Dhillion, too, was in the fray. From Kartarpur, it has fielded Chaudhary Surinder Singh, son of late Chaudhary Jagjit Singh.
But the party has played its most ambitious gamble on the Dalit seats. In a bid to reclaim its traditional vote bank, it has dropped two MLAs — Joginder Singh Panjgrain from reserved seat of Jaito and Tarlochan Singh Soondh from Banga citing the ‘winnability’ factor.
Soondh had made headlines during the last session of the Punjab assembly in September this year by hurling a shoe at the treasury benches which narrowly missed deputy CM Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia. It has tried to replace the duo by playing some musical chairs. Soondh has been replaced by Satnam Singh Kainth, who had lost from the Adampur reserved seat in last polls.
Panjgrain has been replaced with Mohammad Sadique, party’s legislator from Bhadaur reserved segment who was not doing well in survey reports from his own seat. The other Dalit MLA whose seat has been swapped is Ajaib Singh Bhatti who has been moved from Bucho Mandi to Malout.
On general seats, the four other sitting MLAs who have been retained on the second list will defend their own turfs. Other than Amrik Dhillion from Samrala, Indian Youth Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring will recontest Gidderbaha and Karan Kaur Brar has been able to secure her Muktsar seat.
Jagmohan Singh Kang has been able to retain his Kharar seat despite “not looking good” in the survey reports. With this, the total number of sitting MLAs renominated by the party has reached 35 out of 43, including Rajnish Kumar Babbi who had won as a rebel in the 2012 polls.
‘VOLATILE’ SEATS CAN WAIT
But Amarinder may have to wait for seeing those who he brought into the party fold on the list. Like the first list of 61 candidates, the party has once again steered clear of naming MLAs and leaders who have joined the Congress from ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), in face of open revolt by party’s Rajya Sabha MPs, Interestingly, the party has fielded more leaders from erstwhile People’s Party of Punjab whose chief Manpreet Badal is now the Congress candidate from Bathinda (urban). Former PPP leaders Harwinder Singh Laddi is Bathinda (rural) candidate and Darshan Singh has been pitched from Balachaur. With this, the PPP tally on the Congress list has reached five, of which four are reserved segments. Another new entrant, former BSP MLA Nirmal Singh Nimma has bagged Bhadaur.
The seats of former BJP and Akali Dal MLAs -- Navjot Kaur Sidhu, Pargat Singh, Inderbir Bolaria, Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Rajwinder Kaur -- do not find a mention on the list. These include those of Akaliturned-Congress leaders such as Deepinder Dhillon who is eyeing Dera Bassi and Harry Mann, who wants Samana, indicating that the Congress wants to keep the most “volatile” ones for the last.
The seats on which the screening committee has yet to reach a consensus are also pending.
These include Ludhiana north seat of MLA Rakesh Pandey and Sanuar seat of MLA Lal Singh.
With polls yet to be announced, the Congress too seems to be in no hurry to release names.
It held back four names finalised in the meeting of the central election committee headed by party president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday, including Jalandhar North, Bhoa, Shahkot and Sahnewal from where singer Satwinder Bitti is a contender.
Congress second list: All 16 names
Gurdaspur: Barinderjit Singh Pahra
Khem Karan: Sukhpal Singh Bhullar
Bholath: Gurwinder Singh Atwal
Kartarpur (SC) : Surinder Chaudhary
Debut in father’s bastion
Banga (SC): Satnam Singh Kainth
Balachaur: Darshan Lal Mangepur
Former PPP leader
Kharar: Jagmohan Singh Kang
Manages to hold fort
Samrala: Amrik Singh Dhillon
Old warhorse gets lucky
Gidderbaha: Amrinder Singh Raja Warring
Youth Congress chief’s 2nd test
Malout (SC): Ajaib Singh Bhatti
Batting on new turf
Muktsar: Karan Kaur Brar
Reclaiming Brar bastion
Jaitu (SC): Mohammad Sadique
Same tune, different place
Bathinda rural (SC): Harvinder Singh Laddi
Manpreet Badal’s protege
Sunam: Daman Thind Bajwa
ex-Punjab NSUI chief
Bhadaur (SC): Nirmal Singh Nimma
Former BSP MLA
Amargarh: Surjeet Singh Dhiman
Lost seat in 2012