Sukhpal Singh Bhullar is rejoicing — he has bagged the Congress ticket to contest the Punjab Assembly elections from Khem Karan. And in Sukhpal’s moment of joy, among the unhappiest are probably his father and brother. In a political culture where fathers often lobby for tickets for their sons — or vacate their seats for them — the battle for the Khem Karan ticket was unusual. Congress veteran Gurchet Singh Bhullar went to the extent of writing to his party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi urging them to give the ticket to him, and not to either of his two sons, Sukhpal and Anoop.
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Gurchet, a 75-year-old two-time MLA who was a minister in the government of Chief Minister Beant Singh back in 1995, complained to the Congress leadership about a “personal dispute between my two sons”, Sukhpal Singh Bhullar and Anoop Singh Bhullar.
“Each one is trying to get Congress ticket in my as well as other constituencies,” the senior Bhullar wrote in his letter last week. “My humble submission is that giving tickets to any one of them will divide the public support and certainly the party will be missing a golden chance to win Khem Karan constituency. As a fruitful solution to this dispute, the party ticket may kindly be given to me. For me the party interest is the foremost priority rather than personal aspirations of my sons.”
Gurchet Bhullar lost the Assembly elections in 2007 and 2012. Sukhpal is president of the Tarn Taran district Congress committee.
On his part, Anoop too wrote a letter — telling Sonia and Rahul that his brother Sukhpal had a “tainted past”.
“He (Sukhpal) had been served a show notice by ex-Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa for allegedly promising licensed poppy husk and opium vends and allowing unlicensed liquor distillation for personal consumption during a public rally. This is in contradiction to Congress party’s ideology which is always committed to eradication of drugs scourge. If such persons are made face of the party then there is no difference between us and the incumbent party in Punjab (SAD),” Anoop wrote.
He also claimed that Sukhpal had attended a public function to pay tributes to the assassins of Indira Gandhi, and attached newspaper clippings to back his allegation.
Before Sukhpal got the ticket, Anoop had told The Sunday Express: “My father has been contesting elections since 1992. He is perfectly mentally and physically fit. There is a dispute between me and my brother. He neither goes to the constituency nor has done any work there. We have met all Congress leaders and told them that there is a dispute in the family and the ticket should be given to my father. If he is given the ticket, the family dispute would be settled. We both will work for him.”
After the Congress chose Sukhpal, however, Anoop said neither he nor his father would support Sukhpal. He also did not rule out the possibility of Gurchet Bhullar contesting as an independent candidate. “It can happen… Let the people of the constituency decide,” he said.
Sukhpal, on the other hand, said he had been in politics since 1998, been a national officebearer and state vice-president of the Youth Congress, and was carrying forward his family’s political legacy. The family had decided as early as in 2012 that his father would contest the Assembly elections “that time”, and “I would be the candidate in 2017,” Sukhpal claimed.
Anoop,Sukhpal said, had “suddenly started showing interest in politics in the last two-three years”.
“My father cannot differentiate between his sons. Because of that I started focusing on the Tarn Taran seat. But some months ago, my family decided that it would contest from Khem Karan, and it was up to the Congress high command to choose one person from the family… Now the high command has decided, and the decision should be accepted gracefully,” he said.