Updated: January 16, 2022 10:41:38 pm
The Congress Saturday released its first list of candidates for the Punjab Assembly elections, retaining most of the sitting MLAs. After indicating that it would make widespread changes to tackle anti-incumbency, it denied tickets to only four MLAs in the 86 seats (out of 117) for which names were announced.
Those renominated include 17 of the 18 ministers, all from their current constituencies. The one exception, Brahm Singh Mohindra, was replaced with his son.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu will recontest from their respective constituencies Chamkaur Sahib and Amritsar (East).
Among the MLAs dropped was Harjot Kamal, with the party betting big by replacing him in the Moga seat with Sonu Sood’s sister Malvika Sood Sachar. Kamal quit soon after and joined the BJP. Another prominent newcomer making it to the Congress list was popular Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who got the ticket from Mansa.
Channi was not able to secure a ticket for his brother Manohar Singh, who had resigned from government service in the hope of a ticket from Bassi Pathana. The Congress stuck with sitting MLA Gurpreet Singh G P, who has Sidhu’s backing, from the seat.
The fear that partymen denied tickets would find a warm welcome in rebel Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress appears to have prompted the Congress to play it safe. Those renominated by the Congress include four leaders considered close to Amarinder, who had been dropped after his ouster as CM, and two of whom face corruption allegations.
Sidhu had been the most vociferous in asserting that the Congress would go in for an uphaul, and that many MLAs would be dropped, with nominations to be based on winnability alone.
The sitting MLAs denied tickets apart from Kamal were Deputy Speaker Ajaib Singh Bhatti, with the Congress fielding another MLA and former AAP leader Rupinder Kaur Ruby from his seat Malaut; Nathu Ram, who was dropped in favour of Rajinder Kaur from the reserved seat of Balluana; and Balwinder Singh Laddi, who appears to have got the worst deal having returned to the Congress after joining the BJP on the promise of a ticket, only to find himself dropped from Sri Hargobindpur, for Mandeep Singh Rangar Nangal.
Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa, whose brother and sitting MLA Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa joined the BJP recently, has been nominated from Qadian. Outgoing minister Brahm Mohindra’s son Mohit Mohindra will contest from Patiala (Rural).
The four ex-ministers considered close to Amarinder who have got tickets include Sunder Sham Arora from Hoshiarpur, Balbir Singh Sidhu from Mohali, Gurpreet Singh Kangar from Rampura Phul, and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot from Nabha (SC).
The Congress did not announce the candidate from Guruharsarai, whose sitting MLA, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, joined the BJP recently.
In key constituencies, Jagwinder Pal Singh alias Jagga Majithia will take on Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia from Majitha, while Jagpal Singh Abulkhurana will contest from Lambi, a constituency represented by former CM Parkash Singh Badal. The Akali Dal is yet to declare its candidate from Lambi.
A candidate opposed by Channi but backed by Sidhu, Punjab Youth Congress leader Amarpreet Singh Lally, got the ticket from Garhshankar. As did former minister Raghunath Sahai Puri’s son Naresh Puri from Sujanpur, who was being opposed by Sunil Jakhar.
Senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar, who has earlier contested from Abohar, vacated the seat for his nephew Sandeep Jakhar.
Sukhwinder Singh Kotli, a former BSP leader, was fielded from Adampur (SC), a constituency where the party was considering fielding Channi.
Of the MLAs who joined the Congress from AAP, only Sukhpal Khaira and Rupinder Kaur Ruby got tickets. Khaira is facing trial in a case registered by the Enforcement Directorate. Nazar Singh Manshahia, Jagdev Kmalu and Jagtar Singh Jagga Hissowal were dropped.
While the Congress may have dodged the bullet this time, it might find it harder deciding the nominations for the remaining 31 seats. Twelve of its sitting MLAs would be in contention for those.
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