Greenhorns, turncoats, industrialists and party’s old war horses are all there in the first list of 69 candidates released by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal on Wednesday for the Assembly elections due early next year. As per seat-sharing arrangement with ally BJP, SAD will contest 94 out of the total of 117 seats. While BJP and Congress are yet to announce their lists, AAP has announced its candidates for 79 seats.
The first SAD list has focussed on seats reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates where either new faces have been given party tickets or sitting legislators have been shifted to other constituencies.
Punjab’s Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa would contest from Lehra instead of Sunam, the constituency he currently represents. All other ministers who figure on SAD’s list on Wednesday will contest from their current constituencies. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who represents Lambi constituency, and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who represents Jalalabad constituency, do not figure in the first list.
Vidhan Sabha Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal has been dropped from Payal (SC) constituency, from where Isher Singh Meharban has been fielded by SAD. However, in a balancing act to placate Atwal, the party has given ticket to his son and former MLA Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal for Raikot (SC) constituency. Isher Singh Meharban had contested as Congress candidate from Jagraon, also an SC constituency, in the 2012 Assembly polls and lost by merely 206 votes to SAD’s S R Kler.
SAD has decided to field S R Kler from Nihalsinghwala (SC) constituency, currently represented by Akali MLA Rajvinder Kaur. Kaur had defeated Congress’s Ajeet Singh Shant in the 2012 Assembly polls by a margin of 591 votes. In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Shant joined SAD in August 2013. Akali Dal will field Shant from Mehal Kalan, the SC reserved seat Akali Dal had lost to Congress in 2012 polls where Harchand Kaur, contesting on Congress ticket, defeated SAD nominee Gobind Singh by a margin of over 7,000 votes.
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With Kler being shifted to Nihalsinghwala, SAD has given ticket to Amarjit Kaur Sahoke for Jagraon. Currently Moga Zila Parishad Chairman, she is contesting Assembly polls for the first time.
In Phillaur (SC) constituency, SAD has decided to drop sitting MLA Avinash Chander, instead fielding Baldev Singh Khaira, a former BSP heavyweight from Phillaur who joined SAD in July this year. Seth Satpal Mal, a prominent activist of Dera Sachkhand Ballan who had quit Congress as party’s state general secretary in October to join SAD, would be the ruling party’s candidate from another SC reserved constituency of Kartarpur. Mal replaces sitting Akali legislator Sarwan Singh Phillaur. Chander and Phillaur were questioned by Enforcement Directorate in multi-crore Jagdish Bhola drug racket case.
To consolidate its position on yet another SC constituency that SAD lost badly in 2012 polls, the party has chosen Kabir Das as its candidate from Nabha. Das, formerly with Congress leader and key activist of Dera Sachkhand Ballan, joined SAD only last month. In 2012, SAD nominee Balwant Singh Shahpur had lost to Congress’s Sadhu Singh Dharamsot in Nabha by a margin of over 22,000 votes.
Replacing its sitting MLA From Balluana (SC) constituency, Gurtej Singh Ghuriana, SAD will field Parkash Singh Bhatti, the current constituency in-charge of Jaito (SC) constituency who had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Assembly polls from Balluana.
Meanwhile, SAD has dropped liquor baron and sitting Faridkot MLA Deep Malhotra, replacing him with youth leader and Students Organisation of India coordinator Parambans Singh Bunty Romana, one of the 17 new faces who would contest polls on SAD tickets for the first time.
Bunty is contesting Assembly polls for the first time. So does Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra who has been given ticket from Sanour in Patiala district. Harinderpal is the son of sitting Lok Sabha MP and senior Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra.
Another new face of Akali Dal is Gurpreet Singh Raju Khanna, who has been fielded from Amloh.
Dilraj Singh Bhunder, son of Rajya Sabha MP and senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder, has also got party ticket from Sardulgarh.
Punjab Police’s Deputy Inspector General Ranbir Singh Khatra’s son Satbir Singh Khatra would also contest on a SAD ticket for the first time. He has been chosen as the party candidate for Patiala Rural. Khatra was appointed as Patiala Rural constituency in-charge of Sanour by SAD, replacing late Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra’s daughter Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, in June this year. Contesting as an Independent in 2012 polls, Khatra had finished third in Patiala Rural segment.
Hardeep Singh Dimpy Dhillon, who is a transporter, will contest on SAD ticket from Gidderbaha.
Another new face who would be contesting Assembly polls for the first time is Gurmeet Singh Kular. A big industrialist in Ludhiana, Kular will be party’s bet from Atamnagar constituency. Another noted industrialist from Doaba, Jarnail Singh Wahid, has been given party ticket for Nawanshahr.
The cabinet ministers who figure in Wednesday’s list of SAD include Bikram Singh Majithia (Majitha), Gulzar Singh Ranike (Attari), Sikander Singh Maluka (Rampura Phul), Janmeja Singh Sekhon (Maur), Sohan Singh Thandal (Chabbewal), Ajit Singh Kohar (Shahkot), Tota Singh (Dharamkot), Daljit Singh Cheema (Ropar) and Adaish Partap Singh Kairon (Patti).