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SAD first list of 69: New faces and a shuffle to buck anti-incumbency

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday declared 69 candidates for the upcoming assembly polls by banking on youth, the Dalit vote bank and introducing 17 new faces in a bid to buck the strong anti-incumbency of its 10 years in power.

punjab Updated: Nov 17, 2016 02:06 IST
Pawan Sharma
Pawan Sharma
Hindustan Times
akali dal,sukhbir,bunty romana
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal with Parambans Singh ‘Bunty’ Romana, who has been given ticket from Faridkot.(Photo: Romana’s FB page)

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday declared 69 candidates for the upcoming assembly polls by banking on youth, the Dalit vote bank and introducing 17 new faces in a bid to buck the strong anti-incumbency of its 10 years in power.

The SAD, having an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will contest 94 seats of the total 117 in Punjab where elections are due in January-February next year.

Relying on his game-changer social-engineering and shuffling of the candidates to dodge the public ire, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has introduced about 25% new faces and shuffled about 30% candidates on different seats. The first SAD list is a mix of caste, religion, sub-caste and gender. The party has tried to do a balancing act within different sub-castes among the Scheduled Castes (SCs) too.

For the list as a table, click here

Clockwise from left: Finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa has been shifted to Lehra segment, while his cabinet colleagues Bikram Singh Majithia and Sikander Singh Maluka will re-contest from their segments. (HT Photos)

For an example, the list includes names of nine candidates from Majhabi/Balmiki castes, 10 candidates are from Ravidasia/Ramdasia/Adharmi castes, six Hindus, two Ramgarhias, one each Gujjar and Kamboj and four women.

All cabinet ministers will contest for their respective assembly segments, barring finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who will be fielded from Lehra, leaving Sunam.

Another highlight of the SAD’s battle line-up is the dynasty factor or the “son-rise.” The Badal dynasty that dominates the SAD can now claim to have given rise to some more. The list of 69 candidates has sons of at least four senior party leaders, who are either MPs or have decided to hang their boots.

Punjab assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal has decided to end his innings and ensured a berth for his son, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal. But, Atwal, a fresh face, was fielded from Raikot and not from his father’s seat Payal (reserved) in Ludhiana.

Harinder Pal Singh Chandumajra, son of MP Prem Singh Chandimajra will contest from Sanour in Patiala and Dilraj Singh Bhunder, son of senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder, has been retained from Sardulgarh. And son of former MP Rattan Ajnala, Amarpal Singh Bonny, will jump into the fray from Ajanala in Amritsar.

“We have tried to balance all the factors by giving representation to every section. Young leaders have been given tickets, besides fielding 17 new faces and changing some seats,” Sukhbir told Hindustan Times.

While betting on 17 new faces, Sukhbir has accommodated party veterans who have opted to contest.

The defeated party stalwarts are also back. Sewa Singh Sekhwan will contest from Qadian, Nirmal Singh Kahlon from Fatehgarh Churian, Sucha Singh Langah from Dera Baba Nanak and Upinderjit Kaur from Sultanpur Lodhi.

At least five sitting MLAs were dropped to blunt anti-incumbency, while six candidates have been shuffled.

While Sukhbir has retained brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia at latter’s stronghold, Majitha, the SAD has dropped former minister Sawran Singh Phillaur from the reserved seat of Kartarpur and former chief parliamentary secretary Avinash Chander from the reserved seat of Phillaur. All three had faced investigation by the enforcement directorate (ED) in drug cases.

Among others dropped include liquor baron Deep Malhotra (Faridkot and replaced by Sukhbir loyalist Parambans Singh ‘Bunty’ Romana), Gurtej Singh Ghuriana (Balluana) and Rajwinder Kaur (Nihal Singh Wala).

While dropping the “tainted”, the party, in the same stroke, has also tried to woo Ravidasia vote by fielding a close associate of Jalandhar-based Dera Ballan, Seth Satpal Mall, from Kartarpur. From Phillaur, Sukhbir has bet on a new face, Baldev Singh Khaira.

In a surprise move, the party has opted to field a SC candidate Paramjit Singh Pamma, an advocate, from the general category seat of Kapurthala. Pamma is a brother-in-law of Sufi singer and Congress leader Hans Raj Hans.

Like in 2012 elections, the SAD has changed seats of a few MLAs.

MLA Justice Nirmal Singh (retd) has been shifted to Chamkaur Sahib, the seat represented by Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Singh Channi. Rajwinder Kaur, sitting MLA from Nihal Singh Wala, has been dropped and former bureaucrat SR Kler, has been shifted to her seat from Jagraon.

While dropping a woman, Sukhbir also accommodated another by allotting the Jagraon seat to new face Amarjit Kaur Sahoke. The list has named candidates for 18 out of state’s 34 reserved seats.

Sukhbir’s strategy of fielding Hindu faces from seats where the community has a considerable vote-bank had paid off in the last elections. This time too, there are six Hindus on the list and barring Deep Malhotra, all sitting Hindu MLAs have been retained. The predominantly Jat Sikh-dominated list also has two urban Sikhs.

First Published: Nov 17, 2016 02:01 IST