With only four sitting party MPs in Punjab, the state Congress has started its search for “strong” candidates across constituencies to achieve its ‘Mission 13’ — winning all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. The ruling party has four sitting MPs in the state — Sunil Kumar Jakhar from Gurdaspur, G S Aujla from Amritsar, Chaudhary Santokh Singh from Jalandhar and Ravneet Singh Bittu from Ludhiana.
On Tuesday, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar held a meeting with party leaders to frame a strategy for the forthcoming general elections and asked his partymen to dedicate themselves to achieve the target which was fixed by the Congress during a rally at Killian Wali on October 7 last year. During the meeting, the state Congress president also took suggestions from leaders of different units of the party for preparing for the Lok Sabha polls.
Party sources said that AICC president Rahul Gandhi wants states to be ready with their candidates’ list as soon as the election is announced. “We are looking around. Someone will emerge for these constituencies subsequently,” said a senior party leader. Jakhar has already indicated that he would be contesting from Gurdaspur. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur, who is a three-time MP from Patiala and former Minister of State, is likely to be another “obvious” choice from Patiala, claimed sources. Similarly, in Amritsar, while the party has a sitting MP in G S Aujla, it is expected that the BJP would field a strong candidate.
“Usually sitting MPs are preferred but it remains to be seen. Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu could also be considered,” said a leader.
Hoshiarpur, a constituency from where Congress leader Mohinder Singh Kaypee lost last time, is also without any strong contender yet. Similarly, in Faridkot, where Shiromani Akali Dal Tuesday managed to get into their fold Congress’s 2014 candidate Joginder Singh Panjgrain, the party is looking for a strong SC candidate. Similar is the case of Khadoor Sahib where there is no obvious choice.
In Bathinda, where Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Minister and daughter-in-law of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has already announced her candidature, Congress sources said the party candidate was yet to emerge. In 2014, Manpreet Singh Badal, who is now a Cabinet minister, had contested on a Congress ticket and lost to Harsimrat Badal.
“We have no one yet. We are waiting and watching. Since we have to give a strong candidate, we would also be required to pitch someone
who has an anti-Badals image,” said a Congress leader.
In some constituencies like Fatehgarh Sahib, the party is looking at sitting MLAs. “Bassi Pathana MLA Gurpreet Singh G P and Payal MLA
Lakhbir Singh Lakha are the contendors and one of them may emerge if there is no other candidate. But then Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that we should look at emerging leaders as party is often on a back foot by fielding stale old faces,” said another leader.
AICC leaders Manish Tewari and Ambika Soni are learnt to be both aspiring for a ticket from Anandpur Sahib. Former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and former MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon are contenders for the Sangrur seat as its former MP Vijay Inder Singh Singla is now a Cabinet minister.
In Ferozepur, from where Jakhar contested last time, sitting MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, who is an Akali but whose son Davinder Singh Ghubaya is a Congress MLA, remains a contender. While senior Ghubaya is yet to join Congress, and the party too is uncertain about him due to a controversial video of him that went viral during the Assembly elections. Ghubaya is a Rai Sikh and has a stronghold in the constituency having a sizable population of Rai Sikhs.