For Chandigarh battle, Congress picks old warhorse Pawan Bansalhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/for-chandigarh-battle-congress-picks-old-warhorse-pawan-bansal-5655697/

For Chandigarh battle, Congress picks old warhorse Pawan Bansal

Bansal, 71, was seen as frontrunner for the ticket along with Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu and former Union Minister Manish Tewari. All three names were sent by the local election committee to the party’s Central Election Committee.

For Chandigarh battle, Congress picks old warhorse Pawan Bansal
Pawan Bansal with Congress supporters in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Former Union Railway Minister and four-time MP Pawan Bansal was Tuesday formally named the Congress candidate from Chandigarh for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Chandigarh votes on May 19.

Bansal, 71, was seen as frontrunner for the ticket along with Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu and former Union Minister Manish Tewari. All three names were sent by the local election committee to the party’s Central Election Committee. Bansal’s name was officially announced after a meeting of the Central Election Committee was held in Delhi Tuesday evening. The meeting was chaired by AICC president Rahul Gandhi.

General Secretary incharge, Punjab Affairs, Asha Kumari and city Congress president Pardeep Chhabra confirmed the development. “Yes, the CEC has declared Pawan Bansal as the candidate from Chandigarh,” Chhabra told Chandigarh Newsline. Bansal is an old warhorse, known for being easily accessible to people. He is a regular morning walker at the Sukhna Lake, a ritual he maintained despite his defeat in the 2014 polls.

Originally from Tapa Mandi, he was first elected as MP from Chandigarh in 1991. Prior to that, from 1984 to 1990, Bansal remained a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was then elected consecutively for fifteen years in 1999, 2004 and 2009. Bansal has held various portfolios in the Union Cabinet, including that of water resources, parliamentary affairs, science and technology and earth sciences and railways.

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His last stint as the Union Minister of Railways proved the most controversial and he had to resign from his post in May 2013 following the arrest of his nephew for allegedly accepting Rs 90 lakh as bribe for helping in the promotion of a Railway Board member. Bansal was fielded by the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but he lost to BJP leader Kirron Kher. While Kher secured 1.91 lakh votes, Bansal garnered 1.21 lakh votes in the polls. He had blamed AAP, whose candidate Gul Panag secured 1.08 lakh votes, for his defeat.

AAP performed very well in areas considered as Congress strongholds.

Rivals stay mum

Manish Tewari, who was also trying for the ticket from Chandigarh, did not respond to messages sent by Chandigarh Newsline. Navjot Kaur Sidhu’s mobile phone was switched off. However, sources said that she had posted the following in a WhatsApp group: “Please don’t write anything against Pawan Bansal ji. He is a very senior Congress leader and has worked very long for the party. All tickets are first officially announced on party letter head. Wait for that. We are all a hardworking committed team and will always work together for the betterment of Chandigarh, whatever happens. Please be nice.”

Sidhu had earlier threatened that she would not let her husband, former cricketer and Congress MLA Navjot Sidhu, campaign if she did not get the ticket. The city, she had insisted, needed a “woman face’’. Congress leader and former Mayor Poonam Sharma said, “ Hum Congress ke sipahi hain….hume individual se koi wo nahi hai…hum Congress ke candidate ko jita ke bhejenge Chandigarh se…”
When reminded about her statements seeking a “Bansal-free” Chandigarh, Sharma said, “We respect whatever decision has been taken by the high command.”

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Party: Congress
DOB: July 16, 1948
Education: BSc, LLB
1984-1990: Member, Rajya Sabha
1991: Elected as Chandigarh MP for first time
1996, 1998: Lost LS poll to Satya Pal Jain
1999, 2004 and 2009: Elected as Chandigarh MP
2013: Resigned as Union Railways Minister over graft charges
2014: Lost to BJP’s Kirron Kher
Spouse: Madhu Bansal
Children: Two sons — Amit and Manish Bansal