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Congress banks on ministers, sitting MLAs in first list for Punjab polls

The first list includes Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Navjot Sidhu, all cabinet ministers barring Brahm Mohindra.

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Chandigarh: The Punjab Congress on Saturday released its first list of 86 candidates for the forthcoming assembly elections.

The first list includes Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, all his cabinet ministers barring Brahm Mohindra who has given up his claim on the Patiala Rural seat in favour of his son Mohit Mohindra.

Navjot Sidhu will be contesting from his seat of Amritsar East and will be poised against Jeevanjot Kaur of the Aam Admi Party. The Shiromani Akali Dal is yet to declare its candidate for the constituency. Both the Deputy Chief Ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni have been fielded from their home seats of Dera Baba Nanak and Amritsar Central respectively.

In a bid to contain protest and probable exodus, the list also includes former ministers who were part of ex-Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s cabinet. They were divested of their portfolios when the party replaced Singh as the Chief Minister in September 2021.

Besides four sitting MLAs who have not been given tickets in the first list, all others have been retained. Voting to the 117 seat Punjab assembly will take place in a single phase on February 14.

Two significant exceptions

Many candidates in the list are those who lost in the 2017 elections. However, there are two significant exceptions. Sunil Jakhar — former state president of the party — will not be contesting from his Abohar seat. The ticket here has been given to his nephew Sandeep Jakhar. The decision is likely to dilute Sunil Jakhar’s claim to the chief ministerial position. Last week, the Congress had projected Jakhar along with Channi and state party president Navjot Singh Sidhu as the three possible CM faces of the party.

Another significant omission is that of Harminder Singh Jassi, the Congress candidate who lost from Maur Mandi in the 2017. A close relative of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, he was hopeful of being fielded from Talwandi Sabo in a bid to draw Dera vote for the party. However, Khushbaz Singh Jatana has been given the seat now.

If Jassi is omitted in the second list, he is expected to be wooed by other political parties who are seeking Dera votes. Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda has a huge following in Haryana and the Malwa belt of Punjab. Its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim is currently serving multiple sentences in Rohtak jail for rape and murder.

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi will be contesting from his reserved constituency of Chamkaur Sahib from where he won as an independent candidate in 2012 and then as the Congress candidate in 2017. He will be facing off against AAP’s Dr Charanjit Singh and Harmohan Singh Sandhu of the Bahujan Samaj Party-SAD combine.

CM Channi is believed to have failed in securing a ticket for his brother Dr Manohar from Bassi Pathana. Manohar had recently resigned from government service to join full time politics. However, that ticket has now gone to Gurpreet Singh GP.

Former state president and Rajya Sabha Partap Singh Bajwa has been asked to contest from his home seat of Qadian where his brother Fateh Singh Bajwa was the sitting MLA. However, Fateh left the Congress and joined BJP. In case Fateh gets a ticket from the BJP to contest at Qadian, two brothers will face off.

At Majitha, an Akali stronghold, being contested by Bikram Singh Majithia the Congress has fielded Jagwinderpal Singh Majithia who is now poised against another former Congressman Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli Majithia who has now been fielded by AAP.


Also read: Sidhu says Congress ‘may spring surprise on CM face’, talks of ‘character crisis’ in Punjab


Tainted ministers return

All cabinet ministers, many of whom have been at the receiving end of criticism for alleged corruption and non-performance by the opposition have been given tickets including Vijay Inder Singla, Rana Gurjit and Bharat Bhushan Ashu.

All the ministers in Amarinder Singh cabinet who were removed following his removal including Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Nabha) who faced allegations of corruption in the distribution of the post matric scholarship scheme have been given tickets. These include Sundar Shyam Arora (Hoshiarpur), Balbir Singh Sidhu (SAS Nagar) and Gurpreet Kangar (Rampura Phul).

Another minister removed from Amarinder’s cabinet Rana Gurmeet Sodhi had joined BJP.

“The party has become so weak that it has repeated all those ministers it had removed on allegations of corruption or non-performance. Now the Congress has left it to the people to clean their party of these persons,” said Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, general secretary, SAD reacting to the Congress list.

Key omissions

The party has also not experimented much on other seats fearing a backlash just weeks before voting. Only four sitting MLAs have not found their name in the list.

These include Harjot Kamal Singh whose ticket from Moga has been given to philanthropist actor Sonu Sood’s sister Malvika Sood.

Nathu Ram the sitting MLA from Balluana has not been given the ticket following opposition within the party.

Balwinder Singh Laddi, the sitting MLA from Hargobindpur who had left Congress and joined BJP only to return a week later has also not been given a ticket.

Deputy speaker Ajaib Bhatti has also not been given the ticket from his seat Malout due to his ill health.

Bhatti’s seat has been given to Rupinder Ruby, sitting MLA of the AAP from Bathinda Rural who had recently joined the Congress.


Also read: Dissension over Congress’ CM face grows as Sidhu insists ‘people will decide, not high command’


 

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