THE GURDASPUR Lok Sabha by-election, necessitated following the death of Bollywood actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna, has posed a challenge to Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to either please a loyalist or get a baiter on his side. While a long-time loyalist and Rural Development Minister Tripat Singh Bajwa’s son Ravi Bajwa, seeking the ticket for the bypoll, is on one side, Amarinder’s once friend-turned-foe Partap Singh Bajwa is on the other, supporting the candidature of his ex-MLA wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa. Bajwa’s younger brother and MLA Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa’s son Kanwar Partap Singh Bajwa is also a contender for the the ticket if Bajwa’s wife is not considered. Former Batala MLA Ashwini Sekhri is also vying for the party ticket, said sources.
While Amarinder’s closed-door meeting with Bajwa at his younger brother and MLA Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa’s residence a few days ago ruffled many a feather of his loyalists, who say they had waged a war against Bajwa for Amarinder, it remains to be seen whether the Captain would choose between his loyalist or the bete noire.
The by-election is crucial for Amarinder as it would be the first election after his government took over the reins. It is being seen as a litmus test for him as the constituency is considered a BJP stronghold. Also, the Bollywood star of yore’s death mid-term is believed to give BJP the edge in the form of sympathy vote. Bajwa, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP, has been a member of Parliament from Gurdaspur. He lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election. His wife contested the Assembly election from Bajwa’s home town Qadian and won. She, however, made way for her brother-in-law Fateh Jung during the recent Assembly election after Amarinder’s one-family-one-ticket diktat.
Sources said the ticket to Fateh Bajwa was part of an understanding that Charanjit Kaur would be considered for the Lok Sabha election from Gurdaspur and Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, who made way for Amarinder from Patiala, would contest from Patiala in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. But Gurdaspur was vacated mid-term. Bajwa is staking claim to the ticket as it is his home turf.
Fateh’s son, who was quick to post on Facebook pictures of Amarinder at Fateh’s recent dinner, is also a contender. He had contested the Youth Congress election last year. Sources said the family had proposed his name in case Bajwa’s wife is not considered. Sekhri lost the Assembly election and is staking claim to the seat being a Hindu face. Tripat Bajwa and Partap Bajwa’s families have been at loggerheads being the prominent political families of Majha region. Amarinder’s loyalists are bent upon ensuring that the ticket is not given to Partap’s family. Sources said if BJP picks a celebrity, then the Congress would have to field a befitting candidate. So, it remains to be seen who would be Amarinder’s choice to bag the seat.