Nearly two years after the Congress came to power in Punjab, the party seems to be in for an internal fight ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Ludhiana North MLA Rakesh Pandey (65) applied for ticket from Ludhiana constituency on Thursday, against Congress sitting MP Ravneet Singh Bittu (43), who is also in the fray.
During the 2017 assembly elections, MP Bittu reportedly lobbied against ticket to Pandey from Ludhiana North for the sixth time. Pandey was made to wait and his ticket was announced in the last lot, reportedly due to ”negative feedback” from Bittu. However, Pandey won becoming an MLA for the sixth time. Bittu wanted that the party give chance to a ”fresh face” from Ludhiana North.
On Thursday, Dushyant Pandey, son of six-time Congress MLA and former minister Rakesh Pandey, went to Chandigarh and submitted the application of his father for Lok Sabha ticket from Ludhiana.
Bittu is the grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh who was assassinated by Khalistani forces in 1995, while Pandey is the son of slain Congress leader Joginder Pandey, allegedly killed by terrorists in 1987. A three-time MLA and two-time minister, Joginder Pandey also contested Lok Sabha polls from Ludhiana in 1985 but lost to SAD’s Mewa Singh Gill by a wafer thin margin of 137 votes.
Speaking to The Indian Express, MLA Rakesh Pandey said that he has not applied for ticket against sitting MP Bittu to take ”revenge” but because he thinks he is a ”better candidate” for Ludhiana.
“I have more experience and after being an MLA six times, I can represent the people of Ludhiana in Lok Sabha. I am a better candidate. I have nothing against Bittu. One should ask him (Bittu) if he has anything against me. It is not about competing against him but about my capability as a leader,” said Pandey. He added that during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it was from his constituency, Ludhiana North, that maximum votes were polled in Bittu’s favor.
“Bittu got more than 47,000 votes from Ludhiana North, the highest in the constituency. We worked hard to make him victorious,” said Pandey.
Meanwhile, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, who was shifted to Ludhiana constituency in 2014 after then MP Manish Tewari backed out due to health reasons, said Pandey was like a father-figure for him. “Pandey saab is a very senior MLA of our party and I have nothing against him. There is no competition. He is like my father,” he told The Indian Express.
Bittu was MP from Anandpur Sahib in 2009-2014 but his home district is Ludhiana.
A third contender – former Congress district president Pawan Dewan – too has applied for Congress ticket from Ludhiana. He is a close aide of former MP Manish Tewari.