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Congress holds on to 2nd Punjab list to prevent its rejects from switching to BJP

The Sonia Gandhi-headed Central Election Committee (CEC) will consider the list of remaining 31 party candidates for the upcoming Punjab polls on January 22.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chnadigarh |
Updated: January 21, 2022 1:33:37 am
Charanjit Singh Channi, Navjot Singh Sindhu, Punjab, Punjab latest news, Punjab assembly elections, Punjab polls 2022, Punjab Congress, indian expressPunjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi (File)

After having released its first list of 86 candidates for the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections, the ruling Congress is holding on to its second list of 31 poll nominees, waiting for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to declare its candidates so that its rejects could not leave and join the saffron party.

The BJP and its Punjab election allies — former Congress chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and ex-Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukta) — are yet to finalise their seat-sharing formula for the 20 February polls. While the BJP released its first list of nominees for poll-bound states like Uttarakhand and Goa on Thursday, it is yet to name any candidates for the Punjab polls.

Congress sources said the party’s Punjab Screening Committee has already sent a list of candidates for the remaining 31 seats to party chief Sonia Gandhi and that the Gandhi-headed Central Election Committee (CEC) has scheduled its meeting at 11 am on January 22 to consider it.

“The CEC may or may not declare all the remaining candidates on January 22. The Screening Committee has sent the final list to Gandhi. However, several seats have a panel of two names each,” said a Congress leader privy to discussions on the matter. “If the decision is not taken (by the CEC on January 22), then it may be postponed to January 25,” he added.

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The Congress leader pointed out that the party has some more time now as the Punjab election date has been deferred to 20 February. The last date of filing poll nominations is now scheduled for February 1. “We expect fireworks after the second list as several sitting MLAs are likely to lose their seats. But if BJP has already announced its candidates, then they would not have anywhere to go,” he said, adding that the BJP has been eyeing Congress rejects, who may not win but could dent the Congress’s prospects.

A source said the Congress has decided against fielding CM Charanjit Singh Channi from two seats. It may replace the candidate of Adampur seat as former MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee has been upset as the party has nominated a former BSP leader from there.

The Congress has already fielded CM Channi and Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu from their respective constituencies, Chamkaur Sahib and Amritsar (East).

In Patiala (Urban), the Congress may field former mayor Vishnu Sharma against Capt Amarinder. Sharma was earlier a loyalist of Amarinder but later joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Navjot Sidhu recently got him into the party fold.

The 31 constituencies include the seats of 13 sitting Congress MLAs, whose names did not figure in the party’s first list. They include Tarsem DC from Attari, Satkar Kaur from Ferozepur (Rural), Kuldip Vaid from Gill, Nirmal Singh Shutrana from Shutrana, and Davinder Singh Ghubaya from Fazilka.

Other such Congress MLAs are Raminder Awla from Jalalabad, Surjit Dhiman from Amargarh, Sukhpal Bhullar from Khem Karan, Joginder Pal from Bhoa, Amrik Dhillon from Samrala and Angad Singh from Nawanshahar, whose wife, a UP legislator, recently joined the BJP after quitting the Congress. Ramanjit Sikki’s ticket from Khadoor Sahib is also on hold as local MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa has staked his claim on it.

 

Congress sources said a few MLAs out of 13 may be denied party ticket this time. “But the party is unable to take a call as most of them are SC MLAs and it may not send out a right message.”

Also, there are constituencies like Batala, where Ashwini Sekhri is among the leading ticket aspirants and is being backed by Navjot Sidhu. Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa has also staked a claim on this ticket for his son. He has spoken openly against the party’s “one family, one ticket” rule, saying the party’s mission should be rather to win as many seats as possible.

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