The Congress strategy to field heavyweights in Punjab fell flat. Not only did most of its bigwigs bite the dust, but the party was pushed down to third slot with just three seats in its kitty.
Among the big names, only former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh could ensure his victory at the hustings. Starting from PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa, who lost to BJP’s former actor candidate Vinod Khanna with a huge margin, all other heavyweights including Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni, who was pitted from Anandpur Sahib after removing already announced Ravneet Bittu, three-time sitting MP Preneet Kaur from Patiala and CLP leader Sunil Jakhar from Ferozpore were humbled.
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Even Congress-PPP-CPI joint candidate Manpreet Badal could not win Bathinda seat, though he managed to shrink the margin of Harsimrat Badal, daughter-in-law of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
After facing defeat in two consecutive Assembly elections and subsequent byelections, the Congress touched another low by not even retaining the eight seats it wrested in the last Lok Sabha election.
The strategy, chalked out by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the PPCC chief, to field biggies may have galvanised the Congress rank and file ahead of elections but it could not ensure victory. “The fact that the Congress got only three seats against eight last time reflects directly on the leadership of Bajwa, who was nominated as PPCC chief last year after removing Capt Amarinder Singh for non-performance,” said a political pundit.
Sitting MLA Rana Gurmit Sodhi demanded the resignation of Partap Singh Bajwa. “Bajwa should accept defeat and resign as party president because he could not help the high command choose the right candidates. If he does not do so, the party should sack him,” said a bitter Sodhi, who was denied a ticket from Ferozepore on the ground that the party wanted to field senior leaders.