The major political parties in Punjab, including Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP and Congress, have reposed their faith in ‘senior’ leaders to win seats even though a majority of the electors in the state are below the age of 49 years.
Of the total 1.70 crore electors in Punjab, at least 1.34 crore voters are below the age of 49, as per the latest Election Commission data. When it came to allocation of tickets, however, the political outfits seemed to have given preference to leaders who are over 50 years of age.
Of the total 26 candidates announced by the ruling SAD-BJP and Congress, only six are below 50 years of age.
While BJP has picked three contestants —— for the Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seats —— in the 50-plus age bracket, Congress and SAD have pinned hopes on three candidates each who are less than 50 years of age.
Punjab is going to polls on April 30 with SAD and BJP contesting 10 and three seats, respectively. Congress has fielded candidates in 12 seats, leaving the high-profile Bathinda Lok Sabha seat for Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) supremo Manpreet Singh Badal (51), an estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
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The 47-year-old Harsimrat Kaur, daughter-in-law of Badal and wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, is seeking re-election from her Bathinda seat.
Local SAD MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu (47) will slug it out in the Jalandhar (reserve) seat. Another SAD legislator, Manpreet Singh Ayali (39), is to contest from the Ludhiana seat.
In the Congress list, sitting MP Vijay Inder Singla (42) is seeking re-election from Sangrur whereas Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Singh Bittu (39), the grandson of former chief minister the late Beant Singh, has been named for the electoral battle in Ludhiana.
Another below 50 Congress candidate is former militant Harminder Singh Gill (49) in Khadoor Sahib. Gill had given Cabinet minister Adaish Partap Singh Kairon (SAD) a run for his money in the 2012 Assembly polls, losing by a slender margin of 59 votes.
BJP, which is banking on the (Narendra) ‘Modi factor’ in the state, is also betting big on experienced leaders.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley (61) is contesting from Amritsar in one of the biggest electoral battles in the state against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (72) of Congress.
First-timer Vijay Sampla (52), who has been the state BJP vice-president since 1997, has been put up as the party’s candidate for the Hoshiarpur (reserve) seat.
Bollywood actor-turned-politician and former MP Vinod Khanna (67) will cross swords with Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa (57) for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat.
Seventy-six-year old first timer Ranjeet Singh Brahmpura of SAD is contesting from Khadoor Sahib while a sitting MP of the party, Paramjit Kaur Gulshan (65), has been fielded from her traditional Faridkot seat.
Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (78) is SAD’s pick for the Sangrur seat. Another senior Akali leader and former MP, Prem Singh Chandumajra (64), is pitted against Congress heavyweight Ambika Soni (71) in Anandpur Sahib.
Sitting SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya (52) will lock horns against Congress nominee Sunil Kumar Jakhar (60) for the Ferozepur seat.
Turncoat Deepinder Singh Dhillon (51) is SAD’s choice against Union minister and sitting MP Preneet Kaur (63) for the Patiala seat.
And, Congress MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee (57) will this time try his luck from the Hoshiarpur (reserve) seat. He is the sitting MP for the Jalandhar (reserve) seat.
Besides, Congress has reposed faith in sitting MLAs Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (56) from Fatehgarh Sahib and Joginder Singh Panjgrain (55) for the Faridkot Lok Sabha seat.
First-timer Santokh Singh Chaudhary (67) is Congress’s choice of candidate for the Jalandhar (reserve) seat.
Real estate baron Kulwant Singh (53), also a first timer, is SAD’s bet for the Fatehgarh Sahib seat.
In Punjab, the number of voters in the age group 18 to 19 years is 4.85 lakh, between 20 to 29 is 4.6 lakh while an equal number of 4.6 lakh voters is in the age group 30 to 39 years.
Some 3.7 lakh voters are between 40 and 49 years of age in the state.
“The Akali list is a mix of youth and experience. We have young faces in Jalandhar and Fatehgarh Sahib, but have carefully fallen back on experience in other constituencies,” SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal has said.
Akali Dal and BJP, according to the old arrangement, have been contesting 10 and three seats in the state’s total of 13 Lok Sabha seats.
Badal ‘bahu’ Harsimrat, who won in the 2009 polls, has been fielded from the family bastion of Bathinda, a district that has recently gained notoriety for protests.
Last time, she had beaten ex-CM Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh in Bathinda.
In the reserved constituencies (Scheduled Caste) of Jalandhar and Fatehgarh Sahib, Akali Dal has picked fresh faces from the party.
Sitting Akali Dal MLA from Adampur and former member of Bahujan Samaj Party, Pawan Tinu, has been fielded from Jalandhar. In 2009, Akali Dal had suffered defeat in the seat when its candidate, Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans, lost to Mohinder Singh Kaypee of Congress.
In Fatehgarh Sahib, the party has picked affluent real estate developer Kulwant Singh ahead of speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal’s son Inder.
Kulwant Singh is one of the promoters of Janta Land Promoters Ltd. The realty firm was one of the fund-raisers for Akali Dal in 2013, according to an RTI reply last year.
Two-time Lok Sabha MP and SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra, who had once floated his own party SAD (Longowal) before merging with the Badals again in 2007, will be fielded for the first time from Anandpur Sahib.
Chandumajra has earlier won twice in Lok Sabha polls from Patiala. He had an easy outing against Sant Ram Singla in 1996 but his biggest success came when he trounced ex Punjab CM Amarinder Singh in Patiala in 1998.
Akali Dal vice-president Ranjit Singh Brahmpura has been fielded in Khadoor Sahib. Sitting MP Rattan Singh Ajnala, who recently courted controversy over alleged drug racket links, has been ignored by the party. In the BJP camp, thrice MP Navjot Singh Sidhu has been sacrificed for accommodating Jaitley as SAD was keen that the BJP heavyweight should contest from Amritsar.
Union Minister Manish Tewari backed out of the race for Ludhiana citing health reasons. Congress has not fielded Union minister Santosh Choudhary from Hoshiarpur this time.