Congress’ declaration of candidates from Bathinda and Ferozepur has triggered a fresh wave of discontentment in Ferozepur, where some say that the party has just “surrendered both seats to the Badals”. However, the chosen candidates say they are not to be underestimated and believe that barring a few “chronic rebels”, the rest will gradually go along with the decision.
The party has fielded former Indian Youth Congress president and Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring from Bathinda and former Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sher Singh Ghubaya from Ferozepur.
Both candidates are set to face tough competition. Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal may contest from Bathinda — where she is already campaigning — for the third time, though her name is yet to be announced formally. Meanwhile, SAD-BJP supporters from Fazilka and Abohar have indicated that Harsimrat’s husband and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal himself is likely to contest from Ferozepur as he has planned a roadshow from Abohar- Fazilka on Monday.
“If Sukhbir Badal himself will be the contestant then Sher Singh Ghubaya will be a no match before him. Moreover, he (Ghubaya) just joined Congress while the ones who had applied for ticket have not even been considered,” said a Congress supporter on condition of anonymity. Meanwhile, there is a social media campaign calling Amarinder Raja Warring a “weak candidate” in front of the “Badal Bahu” for Bathinda.
‘Labelled light-weight before, but I still won’
Speaking to The Indian Express, Raja Warring said, “When I had contested for the first time in 2012 against Manpreet Singh Badal, who was contesting from People’s party of Punjab (PPP), and SAD’s Sant Singh Brar, I was labelled as a ‘light weight’ candidate. However, I won by a margin of 14,000 votes. I again contested in 2017, people started saying that last time, I won by default, that I won’t be able to win again. However, my winning margin increased to 19,000. This time too, I am being labelled the same way. I am not surprised.”
Congress had won from Gidderbaha seat in 2012 after a gap of 47 years.
Warring further said, “I am a farmer’s son who lost his mother at the age of 6. I have no political background. Yes, I am a commoner before the dynastic politics of Badals. But one needs to remember that even former PM Indira Gandhi had once been defeated by a commoner, PPCC President Sunil Jakhar had also been defeated by a ‘light weight’ candidate (Sher Singh Ghubaya from Ferozepur Parliamentary constituency in 2014 and Arun Narang of BJP from Abohar Vidhan Sabha in 2017).”
He further said, “I never applied for a ticket from Bathinda, but I am happy that I have been given task by AICC to go head on with Badals. Vade nal chhota lare taan hi mukabala lagda hai…vade da vade nal ki muqabla (if a bigshot fights a commoner, only then does it seem to be an interesting contest. There is no no contest if both are bigshots).”
Warring was quick to start campaigning from Saturday night itself, soon after his name was announced by AICC. He went to Budhalada area of Mansa Saturday night, while Sunday morning, he was in Badal village to meet Punjab FM Manpreet Singh Badal at his residence. Manpreet told Warring that he will consider this contest as his own contest, said sources.
In 2014, Manpreet had contested from Bathinda against sister-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal and lost by around 19,000 votes.
‘Barring chronic rebels, others will go along gradually’
Sher Singh Ghubaya, who had joined Congress last month, had started campaigning much before his candidacy was declared from Ferozepur, having already completed a round of almost all villages in his constituency. He will be contesting from Ferozepur for the third time. But this time, on a Congress ticket. In 2009 and 2014, he had contested from SAD and had defeated (then) Congress’s Jagmeet Brar and Sunil Jakhar respectively. Ghubaya is a Rai Sikh, which is an SC community, and 42% of the constituency’s vote bank comprises SC and OBC communities.
Ghubaya, who was in Delhi Sunday afternoon, told this newspaper, “I am happy that the party high command gave me ticket. I know the area well as I have been MP of this constituency for the past 10 years. I am aware of a few rebels in this area. But some are chronic rebels while a few others, who had grudges, will support me eventually.”
Talking about “chronic rebels”, he said, “They are Dr Mohinder Rinwa, Hans Raj Josan, who had spoken against their own party a number of times. Dr Rinwa had tried to cause harm to my son Devinder Ghubaya as well when he contested from Fazilka in 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, but still my son won. Josan also had always spoken against the party whenever he was not allotted ticket.”
Talking about Punjab Minister Rana Sodhi and his son Heera Sodhi, Ghubaya said, “Sodhi sahib is a minister in Punjab Cabinet, I am sure he will support me. I have high regards for him. I will be meeting everyone in the constituency and will seek support from them, I am sure they will walk along.”
The MP said he sees no challenge in this contest, whether his opponent is Sukhbir Badal or anyone else.
Asked to comment on the party’s choice of candidates, Heera Sodhi said, “I am still in Delhi. I will be meeting CM Capt Amarinder Singh after reaching Chandigarh and later on Monday afternoon, I will be meeting supporters at Guru-Har Sahai. We will act as per the directions of supporters.”
Sodhi earlier had stated that the party should take into consideration loyal candidates as well as the ones who are sought by public. He had even indicated that Ghubaya had the anti-incumbency factor because of being MP.