The first list of 19 candidates of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the Punjab assembly elections, released yesterday, is a carefully crafted list, with emphasis on clean image and a streak of activism in the nominees who also fit the caste and community combinations.
There are no allegations of corruption against any candidate so far. Most of the candidates are activists starting with Sikh rights activist lawyer, HS Phoolka and Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar who has been providing free treatment to inmates of Pingalwara of Amritsar and distributing saplings; Rajpreet Singh Randhawa from Ajnala has been engaged in mass marriages of poor girls, Jasvir Singh Sekhon from Dhrui runs an NGO, Sukhmani Foundation, Kultar Singh Sandhwan from Kotkapura is associated with an NGO helping cancer patients.
The party has bet on Girvinder Singh Shampura, the late SGPC chief GS Tohra’s one time loyalist and a former SGPC member who fits the bill in the predominantly panthic constituency, Fatehgarh Churian. It has chosen a Dalit face, and two-time parliamentarian Mohan Singh Phallinawala from Ferozepore (rural) with a predominantly Rai Sikh population. Phallinawala is considered a strong candidate in this constituency of Malwa region considering his grip on Rai Sikhs.
Except the Ludhiana (West) constituency, where the AAP has fielded a Jat Sikh, Ahbaab Singh Grewal, something of a surprise for political parties since it is considered a Hindu seat, the AAP has chosen 18 Sikh candidates comprising Jats, urban Sikhs and Dalits and only one Hindu in the 19 constituencies.
The party has avoided initiating the process of nominations in key constituencies of the state including the Lambi segment of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Jalalabad represented by his deputy chief minister son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Majitha and Patti, represented by Sukhbir’s brothers-in-law, Bikram Singh Majithia and Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, respectively. Similarly, the pocket boroughs of Congress Punjab chief Capt Amarinder Singh and his family have been left open for now. AAP insiders say the party wants to keep the pressure on their political rivals by not revealing all their cards yet.
This first list has left the party’s state convener Sucha Singh Chottepur miffed with the choices. His choices were not considered by AAP. Consequently, the AAP released its first list with Chottepur staying away from the most important function of the party. Efforts are on to appease him.