INDEPENDENTS, WHO contested this Assembly election in Punjab, are the cynosure of all parties ahead of the results on March 11. Parties are leaving no stone unturned to woo the strong Independents as fears of a hung Assembly loomed large over the parties as the election was a fiercely fought triangular contest. While all parties have officially claimed that they would get absolute majority, their leaders are either on the job to woo Independents or trying to keep them in good humour.
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Several Independents, including Congress rebel Naresh Puri from Sujanpur, Rajdeep Kaur, sister of former gangster Jaswinder Singh Rocky, from Fazilka, and Tarlochan Singh Soond, sitting Congress MLA from Banga, who contested as rebel after being denied ticket, are being considered strong by all parties.
Ludhiana MLA brothers, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains, who floated their own Lok Insaaf Party (LIF) and aligned with the Aam Aadmi Party, are also considered strong Independents. AAP had left five seats, four in Ludhiana and one in Amargarh, for them. A SAD leader said, “We are in touch with each one of them. In case we get close to the winning mark and are short of a few seats, we will have plenty of Independents in hand.”
Congress sources also claimed that Puri and Soond were already associated with Congress and if the need arose and they won their respective seats, they would go with the party. Rajdeep Kaur, too, was a strong contender for the party ticket from Fazilka. But she was denied nomination after SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya’s son, Davinder Singh Ghubaya, joined Congress and contested from Fazilka.
Both SAD and Congress feel that Bains brothers did not join AAP, which was an advantage for them to choose any party that comes closer to majority.
“They had five members, who contested on their symbol. Even if only two win, we will have two Independents. A deal will them would not be loss making at all,” said a Congress leader. In a House of 117 seats in Punjab, 59 are required for any party or alliance to form government.
“Why should Bains brothers have any issue? They can go to any side. They are not part of AAP,” said a SAD leader.
As for Congress, the party has its MLA from Ludhiana West, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who is considered very close to the junior Bains.
Simarjit Singh Bains told the Indian Express that he considered his alliance with AAP as a “dharma”. “We have not been approached by anybody. If they are planning to do so, I want to tell them that it would be a waste of their energy and time. I am strongly with AAP. We are winning 100 seats for sure. These two parties would not be in a position to reach close to the winning mark. They can themselves predict how many seats out of the remaining 17 they would get,” said Bains, adding that even if AAP was on the edge, they would go with AAP. “We would not even mind sitting in the opposition. We are with AAP for an ideology and not for any position.”
Soond said, “If I win, my next course of action would be decided by the people of my constituency. They asked me to contest. Now, they will only tell me which side to go to.”