Even as the Congress on Friday released the names of another eight candidates and changed two others, it continued to put off decisions on nine more Assembly seats, including where Pargat Singh, Navjot Sidhu and Manish Tewari could be contenders.
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Among the seats yet to be decided are Jalandhar Cantonment, where former Akali MLA Pargat Singh, who quit the party following differences with the Badals, is a serious contender. But he is up against Amarinder Singh favourite, Jagbir Singh Brar, who has threatened to rebel if denied ticket. The Congress has been trying to get Pargat to move to Nakodar, but the former India hockey player is firm against contesting from there. Thus, Nakodar is also on hold.
The problem with Amritsar East is exactly the opposite. The party is holding it for cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, but Congress cannot announce it until he joins. He met AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on Thursday, setting off another round of a “will he, won’t he” guessing game.
There is no agreement yet on Amritsar South, as Congress leaders oppose the party’s decision to give it to SAD MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria.
The party finds itself unable to announce the candidature of former Union minister Manish Tewari for Ludhiana East owing to a threat from sitting MP Ravneet Bittu and his aide MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who have threatened to work against him.
Senior vice-president Lal Singh is the only MLA on the remaining list of probables. His constituency, Sanaur, is still vacant. His son Ranjinder Singh’s candidature was announced from Samana. Insiders revealed that the party would ultimately field Lal Singh from Sanaur, making an exception to its one-family-one-ticket rule. But it does not want to open a can of worms by announcing him at this stage.
The party is still confused about Lambi and Jalalabad. Its earlier candidate from Lambi, Mahesinder Singh Badal, had hung up his boots and Gurmeet Khuddian and Jagpal Singh Abulkhurana are strong contenders. The party is yet to decide whether they should field star candidates against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal In Lambi and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in Jalalabad. AAP MP Bhagwant Mann has been saying that Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh was secretly planning to contest from Lambi alongside Patiala.
In Jalalabad, the party’s best bet was Davinder Singh Ghubaya, son of SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, an influential Rai Sikh leader and Jalalabad has a sizeable population of Rai Sikhs. Also, Ghubaya has been a close aide of Sukhbir Badal who gave up his pocket borough Jalalabad for the former.
In Mansa, Bikram Inder Singh Chahal, son of Amarinder’s close aide and former media adviser Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, is a strong contender. Amarinder is known to protect the interests of his aides even in the face of strong opposition. Another strong contender for the seat is Manjit Singh Jhalbuti. The party is yet to decide on his candidature.