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Friday, January 21, 2022

In battle between Bajwa brothers, bone of contention: Qadian

Sons of late Congress stalwart Satnam Singh Bajwa, who remained a four time MLA and was assassinated at the peak of militancy in his farmhouse in 1987, were at daggers drawn with each other with both staking claiming claim to ticket from Qadian.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
December 29, 2021 7:10:25 am
Fateh singh Bajwa (Left) and Partap singh Bajwa (Right) (Express photo)

The tussle between Bajwa brothers of Punjab Congress over contesting the 2022 Assembly polls from Qadian saw its culmination Tuesday with party leader and sitting MLA from the seat, Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa, joining the BJP with elder brother and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa refusing to make any comments saying “everybody is a free bird”.

Sons of late Congress stalwart Satnam Singh Bajwa, who remained a four time MLA and was assassinated at the peak of militancy in his farmhouse in 1987, were at daggers drawn with each other with both staking claiming claim to ticket from Qadian.

Fateh Jung’s joining the BJP came within a month of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, addressing a party rally in Qadian, declared him as Congress nominee from the constituency. Before that, in the same rally, Fateh Jung projected Sidhu as next chief minister of Punjab. Four days after that rally, Partap Bajwa announced that he will contest the Assembly election from Qadian.

Earlier, in 2012, Fateh Bajwa wanted to contest from Qadian, but the Congress fielded Partap Bajwa’s wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa who won. The Indian Express profiles the Bajwa brothers, their political journey and how they react to developing political scenario in Punjab.

Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa
He contested as an independent candidate from Sri Hargobindpur constituency in Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections for the first time in 2002. Fateh Jung says he entered politics on the insistence of Captain Amarinder Singh who asked his elder brother Pratap Bajwa to groom someone from the family for Sri Hargobindpur seat. However, as per an alliance and seat sharing arrangement of Congress with the Communist Party of India (CPI), the ticket was given to Gurnam Singh Dhirowal. “I lost by mere 2,100 votes to winning Akali Dal candidate [Capt] Balbir Singh Bath in that election. There were nine candidates including Dhirowal,” says Fateh Jung, adding that CPI managed to get the ticket on the premise that it had won the seat in 1992.

Fateh Jung again contested from Sri Hargobindpur in 2007, this time as Congress nominee, but again lost to Bath by around 12,00 votes. In 2012, the Sri Hargobindpur constituency was declared Schedule Caste reserve constituency after delimitation. This made Fateh Jung shift focus and he started concentrating on Qadian constituency and staked claim for the Congress ticket. However, the party gave the ticket to Charanjit Kaur Bajwa, wife of Partap Bajwa, which irked Fateh Jung.

As per Fateh Jung, “Partap had promised to my mother [Gurbachan Kaur] that I would be given the ticket from Qadian in 2012. But, that was not honoured.”

Gutbachan Kaur passed away in 2016, a few months ahead of 2017 Punjab elections. Fateh Jung says that he was fielded from Qadian in 2017 as Charanjit Bajwa was “not winning” from there as per the surveys. He adds, “As per surveys, I was among top 10 winning Congress candidates in 2022 elections. But, he (Partap Bajwa) played his game. I asked him that for the last 12 years you were in Delhi and may have come 10 to 12 times in the constituency. He has no connect with the constituents. He has such a big stature that he could have sought ticket for himself from anywhere other than Qadian. People of the constituency did not like it. I told him (Partap) that one plus one is eleven and one minus one is zero. I told him that he is heading to a zero… how can he become the chief minister [of Punjab].”

A graduate from Panjab University, Chandigarh who had to discontinue his post graduation in English from DAV College Amritsar as he preferred to “focus on 1980 election” contested by his father Satnam Singh Bajwa, Fateh Jung told The Indian Express over phone that he decided to join the BJP as there was “intense infighting in Congress with different camps including Navjot Sidhu, Majha Express and the Channi group” and that “there was no unified command”. He added that there was no reason continuing with the Congress when “as a sitting MLA, I don’t know whether I will get the party ticket or not.” Fateh Jung claimed that “AAP wanted to declare me as face of Majha.” He, however, added that he decided against going with the AAP as it “did not allow leaders like Dharamvira Gandhi, Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Sukhpal Khaira to have any say”.

Partap Singh Bajwa
The Rajya Sabha member is a three-time MLA and one-term Lok Sabha MP — he had defeated BJP nominee Vinod Khanna in 2009 parliamentary elections from Gurdaspur constituency. He lost to Khanna in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Partap Bajwa served as Punjab Congress president between 2013 and 2016 and boasts of having distinction of serving as minister during the tenures of four chief ministers — Beant Singh; Harcharan Singh Brar; Rajinder Kaur Bhattal; and Captain Amarinder Singh. Bajwa is currently the chairman of committee on subordinate legislation, a tenure broadly relating to framing rules in legislation where he will continue till April next year. A known bête noire of Amarinder Singh, Partap Bajwa was seen with the former CM at a time when state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu had been all guns blazing against Amarinder. Partap Bajwa claims he survived a terrorist attack on him when he had gone to a hospital in Batala in 1990.

“The bomb was planted in a scooter. I had entered the hospital to inquire about a person injured in another terror attack. Luckily, no one was injured in that incident as the driver of my car had gone away. The car was totally destroyed in that blast. A case was registered at Batala police station,” Partap Bajwa told The Indian Express over phone.

On his younger brother joining the BJP, he said, “I have no comments to make. Everybody is a free bird.” On Fateh Jung seeking Congress ticket from Qadian in 2012 and opposing candidature of his (Partap’s) wife, Partap Bajwa said, “She won hands down.”

He added, “My late mother had cajoled me that Fateh Jung be given ticket for 2017 elections. I honoured that. But, he (Fateh Jung) was told that when I return to Punjab politics, he would vacate it for me. But, he refused to do so.”

Partap Bajwa said he had been given a go ahead by party high command to contest from Qadian and hence he had started the campaigning.

The senior Congress leader claims to have been strongly batting for farmers to oppose the now repealed farm laws. He had been also been pressing for land swap with Pakistan to include Gurdwra Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur) into Indian side. Partap Bajwa did his schooling from Punjab Public School, Nabha and graduated in 1977 from DAV College Chandigarh. He also secured a degree in law in 1980 from DAV College, Dehradun.

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