Bajwa,Ashwani,Sekhri,Bhinder and Salaria in the race
At least five Congressmen are seeking a ticket for the border parliamentary constituency of Gurdaspur. Former Cabinet minister and Kahnuwan MLA Partap Singh Bajwa,Union Minister of State for Industries Ashwani Kumar and former Batala MLA Ashwani Sekhri are lobbying hard for the ticket,while retired IPS officer Pritam Singh Bhinder and Mumbai-based businessman Swaran Salaria have also evinced interest.
Notably,the BJP has already declared three-time MP and actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna as its candidate. The Congress is weighing all options carefully to find a suitable candidate to take on the star power of Khanna.
While Ashwani Kumars access to 10,Janpath,is his strong point,Bajwa is the leader of the masses and has a formidable base in the area due to familys legacy in politics. The recent delimitation,whereby Sikh voters have increased in the area,also goes in favour of Bajwa. Ashwani Kumar claims that his long experience as the Rajya Sabha member and his familys past contribution to the party would go in his favour.
The constituency with 12.5 lakhs voters is dominated by Jat Sikhs,who form over 28 per cent of the total voters,followed by urban votes of Hindus,Dalits and Christians. This demographic profile also goes in favour of Bajwa,though Ashwani also claims following among all sections. Sekhri is close to former CM Capt Amarinder Singh. Bhinder,who stays in Delhi for most of the time,is husband of late Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder,who represented Gurdaspur constituency in the Lok Sabha for a record six times before she was dethroned by Khanna in 1999. After her death,her husband,who also remained Delhi Police Commissioner,showed interest in politics.
Bhinder contested the last assembly election from Gurdaspur,but lost to Congress leader Gurbachan Singh Babbehali,who left the Congress and joined SAD(B),to contest against his mentor. Though not keeping a good health due to age factor,Bhinder has been lobbying in Delhi for the ticket.
Salaria has been making frequent trips to his hometown,organising religious functions and even a camp of yoga guru Baba Ramdev. He has been openly staking his claim to the ticket.
District Congress president Krishan Chand,who is considered closed to Ashwani Kumar,says the party will consider winnability and announce the candidate shortly. The AICC had deputed Yogesh Sahni as the observer from the neighbouring J&K to study winnability of aspirants.