Updated: June 5, 2022 7:11:26 am
Calls for a consensus candidate, including Sidhu Moosewala‘s father, having fallen through, the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll is set to be an interesting contest. With a day to go for the deadline to file nomination papers ending, the Congress and BJP were the only parties yet to field candidates.
The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded its Sangrur district president and a sarpanch, Gurmel Singh. The seat holds high stakes for the ruling party, having been vacated by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on being elected to the Assembly. AAP zeroed in on Gurmel, after toying with other names, and the CM was present for the filing of his nomination papers Saturday.
Veteran SAD (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann also filed his nomination papers Saturday, ignoring an appeal for another joint candidate. An Akali Dal delegation led by former CM Sukhbir Badal had called on him at his Sangrur residence Friday seeking that a family member of one of the Sikh political prisoners languishing in jails be fielded by them together.
On Saturday evening, the Akali Dal announced Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana, the sister of Beant Singh assassination convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, as its candidate. Rajoana is among the political prisoners for whose release the Akali Dal is campaigning, putting pressure on the AAP government.
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It was noted agriculture economist Sardara Singh Johl who upturned several plans by issuing an appeal to parties to together field Moosewala’s father Balkaur Singh, so that he could be elected unopposed from Sangrur.
Had a consensus been reached on Balkaur, AAP would have found itself in a jam on a seat which it won the last two times by a margin of more than 1 lakh votes (the winner both times, 2014 and 2019, was Bhagwant Mann). The party is in damage control mode over the Moosewala affair, with the singer having died days after the AAP government withdrew security to him, in a much-publicised decision.
Asked about the call to back Moosewala’s father as candidate, while he was in Sangrur for Gurmel’s nomination, the CM said: “The party has given ticket to a person from an aam family. The people of Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency have supported me twice, and I am sure that they will support AAP again.”
Simranjit Singh, who visited Moosewala’s village after his killing, has also maintained silence on the call to make his father the consensus candidate. On his meeting with the Akali Dal delegation at his home, Simranjit Singh said while he did not oppose fielding a nominee agreeable to all Panthic organisations, he would not be withdrawing his papers, indicating that he wanted the Akali Dal to rally behind him as the common candidate.
The veteran leader also expressed confidence about winning the election. “AAP’s graph has fallen drastically,” he said.
With Sangrur his base, Simranjit Singh has some hold on the seat. A SAD (Amritsar) candidate had won the Lok Sabha constituency in 1989. In 1999, Simranjit Singh himself won from there. But, in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, which was won by Bhagwant Mann, he had lost his security deposit. Simranjit Singh was also defeated in the recent Vidhan Sabha polls, losing to AAP’s Jaswant Singh Gajjanmajra by about 6,000 votes in Amargarh.
However, given AAP’s sweep by huge margins in the rest of the Malwa region, Simranjit Singh’s narrow loss was considered a proof of his popularity.
Senior Akali Dal leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said: “The Bandi Singh Rihai Morcha named Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana as a possible joint candidate. In this connection, we met Simranjit Singh. Kamaldeep initially refused to contest but the morcha told us that she is now ready.”
Chandumajra also said that they were ready to back Moosewala’s father, “if a consensus is built among all for his unopposed election”. “This will be a tribute to the slain singer.”
Soon after declaring Kamaldeep as their candidate, the Akali Dal detailed how the mother of two had been a victim of Punjab’s days of terror, with her younger sister and brother Harwinder both dying allegedly in police actions. Senior Akali Dal leader Charanjit Singh Brar said,” Her father was also tortured by police and their house burnt.”
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Akali Dal candidate, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, had finished third in the Sangrur seat. Dhindsa split from the Akali Dal to form the SAD (Sanyukt), which contested the recent elections as a BJP ally.
The Congress, which is yet to declare a name, had backed the call to field Moosewala’s father by consensus. PPCC president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said he hoped that all parties would agree on it. “Let’s put the politics of one upmanship aside… There would be no better way to pay tributes to Moosewala.”
On Saturday, Balkaur came out strongly against talk of him contesting. After his meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at Chandigarh airport, Balkaur put up a post on social media that such talk is hurtful. “The pyre of my son is not yet doused. I have no intention to contest elections,” he said.
Congress sources said that now that a consensus was ruled out, they were waiting for the high command’s verdict on two names that had been suggested several days ago, former MLAs Dalvir Singh Goldy and Vijayinder Singla.
Polling is to be held at the Sangrur seat on June 23 and counting will happen on June 26.
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