Chandigarh: The BJP Friday released its first list of 34 candidates for the upcoming Punjab assembly elections, featuring a mixed bag of veteran leaders and turncoats.
At a press conference in Delhi, BJP’s national general secretary Tarun Chugh said the party had included 12 farmers, 13 Sikhs and eight Scheduled Caste (SC) members in the list. The list also includes doctors, sportspersons and industrialists, he added.
After its electoral partner of four decades, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), broke away last year over the now-repealed three farm laws, the BJP is fighting this election in alliance with the Punjab Lok Congress (PLC), the new party launched by Captain Amarinder Singh, who left the Congress after he had to step down as CM last September.
Apart from the PLC, the BJP has also collaborated with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt), a breakaway faction of the Akali Dal, which also announced a list of 12 candidates Friday.
Captain Amarinder is expected to release the first list of his party’s candidates Sunday.
Voting in Punjab will take place in a single phase on 20 February. Results will be declared on 10 March.
Most traditional seats go to old hands
On its traditional seats, the BJP fielded tried-and-tested veterans. Sitting MLA Dinesh Babbu will again contest from the Sujanpur seat, as will Mahinder Pal Bhagat from Jalandhar West. Former cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia will once again contest from Jalandhar Central, K.D. Bhandari from Jalandhar North, Tikshan Sud from Hoshiarpur, Gurdev Sharma Debi from Ludhiana Central, former cabinet minister Surjit Kumar Jyani from Fazilka and sitting MLA Arun Narang from Abohar.
In a few of its traditional seats, the party has changed its candidates. Renu Kashyap, who is related to former BJP MLA and educationist Sitaram Kashyap from Dinanagar, has been given the ticket from her family seat.
BJP’s Amritsar general secretary Sukhminder Singh Pintu will contest from Amritsar North. BJP’s previous candidate from here was former party leader Anil Joshi, who had joined the SAD last year, and has been fielded from the same seat this time.
From Mukerian, BJP has fielded JL Mahajan, who had fought from here as an independent candidate in 2017. Mahajan, who had fought from Mukerian as an independent candidate in 2017 and lost, had contested the 2019 bypoll — necessitated by the demise of Congress MLA Rajnish Babbi — on a BJP ticket, but had lost to Congress’s Indu Bala.
Raghunath Rana, industrialist and president of the Rajput Mahasabha, north India, has been fielded from Dasuya. From Ludhiana West, the party has fielded noted advocate Bikram Singh Sidhu, who is also a member of the BJP state executive committee.
Former Congress, Akali leaders & Independents in list
Former Congress cabinet minister Rana Gurmeet Sodhi — who is a close aide of Captain Amarinder and joined BJP after the former CM stepped down — has been fielded from traditional BJP seat Ferozepur City, and not his home constituency Guru Har Sahai.
Industrialist and former Congress MLA Arvind Khanna, who joined the BJP just 10 days ago, will contest from Sangrur.
Kanwarveer Singh Tohra, the grandson of late Gurcharan Singh Tohra (one of the tallest leaders of the Akali Dal), who had recently joined BJP along with his family members, will be contesting from Amloh.
Dr Dilbag Rai, who is also a member of the BJP’s state executive committee, has been fielded from the Chabbewal seat, which was with the Akali Dal earlier when the two parties were allies. Retired IAS officer S.R. Laddar has been fielded from the reserved seat of Gill. Kabaddi player Ranjit Singh Khojewala will contest from Kapurthala, and retired IPS officer Ashok Baath will contest from Balachaur.
Nimisha Mehta, who had fought from Garshankar in 2017 as an Independent candidate and lost, has been given a BJP ticket to contest from the same seat. Mohan Lal, a former Akali MLA from Banga, will now contest from this seat as BJP candidate. Didar Singh Bhatti, who was the Akali Dal candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib in 2017, will now contest as BJP candidate from the same seat as well.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)