The Congress’ decision to stay away from the Khadoor Sahib bypoll has raised the hopes of not only the party rebel, Bhupinder Singh Bittu, but also of both AAP rebels — Swaraj Abhiyan candidate Bhai Baldeep Singh and Punjab Sanjhiwal Jatha candidate Sumel Singh Sidhu.
The AAP rebels were also quick to praise former Congress MLA Ramanjit Singh Sikki, whose resignation, to protest the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib last October, necessitated the bypoll. “We respect Sikki as he has stuck to his stand. He had resigned over the desecration issue and has now decided against contesting. I appreciate his decision,” Bhai Baldeep said.
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A classical musician who contested the parliamentary elections from Khadoor Sahib on an AAP ticket, Bhai Baldeep was accompanied by rebel AAP MPs Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa when he filed his nominations.
Sumel Singh Sidhu, the first AAP covenor in Punjab before he fell out with the party high command, also praised the former MLA. “Sikki had highlighted the gravity of resentment among people over the desecration issue. I respect his decision. But we have also seen Punjab simmer over various issues from farmer suicides to killing of people by buses owned by ruling party leaders. So we will contest this election on these issues,” Sidhu said.
The Congress rebel Bhupinder Singh Bittu, however, slammed Sikki. A former market committee chairman and a close confidante of senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa, Bhupinder alleged that Sikki never stood by Congressmen in the constituency.
“Sikki had walked out of constituency soon after winning the elections in 2012. In all these years, Akalis committed atrocities on Congressmen in Khadoor Sahib but Sikki never stood up for the workers. He was absent from the constituency. I am not surprised that he has walked out. Even if he would have contested, he was sure to lose,” said Bhupinder Singh, who will contest as an Independent.
He was also considered close to former Rajya Sabha MP Manohar Singh Gill and is known to have distributed MPLAD funds issued by Gill. “I have distributed over Rs 37 crore in the constituency. People know me and my work,” Bhupinder said.
Baldeep’s nomination under scrutiny
THE candidature of Bhai Baldeep Singh will be clear only on Thursday as there appears to be a glitch in his nomination. Baldeep is a registered voter in Delhi and had recently forwarded an application to cancel his vote in the Capital. He had applied to become a voter in his home town of Sultanpur Lodhi. Baldeep could not produce required proof as a voter here. Only a voter in Punjab can contest assembly elections in the state. Returning officer and Sub Divisional Magistrate Ravinder Singh has handed a notice to Baldeep Singh to produce the required documents by 11 am on Thursday. Failure to do so will result in his nomination being cancelled.
Baldeep Singh, however, told the media that he will provide the required documents by Thursday.