WITH ITS candidate for Shahkot bypoll Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia booked by the state police in a case of illegal sand mining in the early hours of Friday, the Congress was not only left red-faced but puzzled, too.
The government woke up to news of the FIR against Sherowalia going viral on social media, found itself on the defensive and spent the entire day in damage-control mode. It was embarrassed: Even as AICC president Rahul Gandhi has been seeking votes against the BJP in Karnataka by campaigning against the Reddy brothers for illegal sand mining, in Punjab his party candidate was booked for alleged illegal sand mining.
It was puzzled as it was the Congress’s own government in the state that had booked its nominee. SHO Mehatpur, who lodged the FIR, Parminder Singh Bajwa was transferred out as SHO of Shahkot on April 28, the day the Election Commission had announced the by-election and the code of conduct had come into effect that day. The SHO’s transfer out of the segment was following political feedback.
Interestingly, five days later, the EC posted Bajwa as SHO of Mehatpur, another police station falling in Shahkot constituency. His name was put on a panel of three by SSP, Jalandhar (Rural) G S Bhullar and the EC chose him to be posted in Mehatpur. Bhullar was not available for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him. He is learnt to have given an explanation to his senior on the issue that the criterion was availability.
The party, however, threw its weight behind Sheorwalia by stating they would not replace him. “Why should we? If BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa can stand and Reddy brothers can contest, then why cannot our candidate? He has not been convicted. It is our fair and transparent police that can register a case against ruling party nominee. If he is proved to be guilty, he would face party action also. It is a part of political conspiracy by our political opponents to scare us off. They do not have any agenda nor any face. We will win the by-election despite everything. We will file nominations on May 10,” said Asha Kumari, party general secretary and Punjab in-charge.