In the politically strategic Bathinda and Ferozepur Lok Sabha constituencies — where Congress has stopped short of announcing candidates — its list of prospective contenders comprises senior but reluctant leaders on one side, and younger, enthusiastic claimants that are itching to take on the Badals, on the other.
While Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who is Congress’ first choice to take on Badals in their home-turf Bathinda, is reportedly said to have gently expressed his inability to contest, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu has outrightly refused to throw her hat in the ring.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, are campaigning in Ferozepur and Bathinda respectively. Though they are yet to declare their candidature, the Congress wants to ensure formidable contenders for the two constituencies.
While the two best bets are not too keen, there are plenty others who want to fight. Punjab Health Minister Brahm Mohindra’s son Mohit Mohindra (28) is one of the claimants. A general secretary in PPCC and Punjab Youth Congress in-charge of Bathinda constituency, junior Mohindra is trying his luck for the ticket. “I have been mobilising youths in this constituency for last one-year-and-a-half. I am working at the grassroot level,” he said.
It is said that his Cabinet minister father, a close friend of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, has been trying to use the Bathinda seat as a launchpad for his son. Sources said he has worked hard for a ticket for his son in the Badals pocket-borough on the plea that he will ensure the victory of his son.
Another young leader, Kushbaz Jatana, who was among the youths to get Congress ticket in Assembly elections but lost to Aam Aadmi Party leader Baljinder Kaur, is another claimant from Bathinda, “I am a strong contender. I will take on Badals if I am given the ticket. But if party decides on anyone else, I will support them strongly.”
Former MLA Ajit Inder Singh’s son, Bikram Inder Singh Mofar, is also a claimant for the ticket. Mofar said they were the best bet to take on Badals.
Former Indian Youth Congress chief and MLA from Gidderbaha, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring too is in the race. A vociferous leader, Raja Warring said he was itching to fight against Badals. “I will take them on from anywhere in the state. If the party would want me to go to any constituency to contest against them, I am ready.”
In Ferozepur, while the party has been going back and forth with names of Manpreet Badal, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, depending on who from among the Badals contests, the party has certain strong contenders in Cabinet Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, an aide of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, and former SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya. Ghubaya has been campaigning for the last one month and said he was sure he would be announced the Ferozepur candidate.
Former minister Inderjit Singh Zira, who was ignored by the party in Khadoor Sahib, has now staked his claim on Ferozepore.
Congress meeting soon
To take a call on these two constituencies, the Congress is likely to hold a meeting with AICC president Rahul Gandhi on April 20 or 21. Sources said the party wants to announce the names soon so that campaigning can begin. Also, going by past experience, when a number of rebels were to be handled, the party would like to be done with the process of announcement soon, but also wait for SAD’s list of names.