SAD may pick Brahmpura; Cong short of options
In the 2009 parliamentary polls, the race for party nominations within the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the opposition Congress never really picked up as the respective candidatures from the Khadoor Sahib seat was a foregone conclusion.punjab Updated: Feb 15, 2014 00:11 IST
In the 2009 parliamentary polls, the race for party nominations within the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the opposition Congress never really picked up as the respective candidatures from the Khadoor Sahib seat was a foregone conclusion.
Enjoying the confidence of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, then sitting member of Parliament (MP) from Tarn Taran, had been re-nominated by the SAD. After delimitation in 2008, the area profile of the Tarn Taran constituency underwent a change and it was renamed Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha seat.
From the Congress, the name of then Lok Sabha member from Jalandhar Rana Gurjit Singh had emerged for the Khadoor Sahib seat in 2009. Rana then had no option left after Jalandhar became a reserved seat following delimitation.
Battle of ‘Majhails’
This time, though there are not many ticket claimants in the SAD and the Congress, the names that have emerged have made the race an absorbing affair.
A factor that could be common to both parties is that the contest will be between two ‘Majhails’ (residents of Majha area) in this constituency, the only one in Punjab that includes areas of Majha, Doaba and Malwa.
Ajnala’s candidature is not as certain this time as it was in 2004 and 2009 (from Tarn Taran). This is due to the emergence of the name of Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, who seems keen to make his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha at the fag-end of his political career spanning over 40 years.
“Badal sahib (CM) has neither asked for any nominations nor brought up the subject. If the party wants my ‘sewa’ from Khadoor Sahib, I’m ready,” said the former minister, who over the past few months has been on the move, distributing cheques for development to panchayats in his area.
Brahmpura is the most experienced Akali leader after the chief minister, who often takes his advice on political matters related to the Majha belt. His loss in the 2012 assembly elections from the Khadoor Sahib segment, after three consecutive victories, had saddened the senior Badal.
The CM is keen to ‘accommodate’ Brahmpura, who was feeling sidelined after his defeat.
Meanwhile, Ajnala has been on the back foot ever since his name cropped up in the Jagdish Singh Bhola drug racket. One of the accused in the case is Maninderjit Singh alias Bittu Aulakh, who was close to Ajnala and the latter’s MLA son, Amarpal Singh Bony.
Re-nominating Ajnala could cause embarrassment to Badal as well as deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who has been expressing his seriousness to combat the drug menace.
The third name doing the rounds is that of Khem Karan MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Virsa Singh Valtoha, who is close to the junior Badal. If the party decides to go in for a younger face, then Valtoha, a firebrand leader in his own right, is the best bet.
With Rana Gurjit Singh, now an MLA from Kapurthala, not interested in contesting, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Harminder Singh Gill has emerged as the frontrunner. He enjoys the confidence of both PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa and the latter’s predecessor, Capt Amarinder Singh.
In the 2012 assembly polls, he gave the Akalis a scare when he came close to defeating Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, the CM’s son-in-law, from Patti (he lost by a margin of just 59 votes).
Sources in the Congress claim that Gill’s candidature is almost certain, barring some last-minute hiccups. Another factor in his favour is his Panthic background which could be a plus point in an area which has preferred Akali candidates in the past.
Given the limited options, the Congress high command may choose to ignore Gill’s past — his being a member of the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and spending a couple of years under detention in Jodhpur (Rajasthan) after Operation Bluestar.
Another name that has emerged is that of youth leader Sukhpal Singh Bhullar, the Tarn Taran district Congress committee chief. Bhullar is the son of former minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar.
The party could also consider former MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa. Though Dimpa has applied for the ticket from the Amritsar constituency, he could be considered for Khadoor Sahib, as his native village falls in the Baba Bakala assembly segment which is part of Khadoor Sahib and he has a lot of influence in the area.