The Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali), a breakaway faction of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Sunday announced withdrawal of its candidate, former Army chief Joginder Jaswant Singh, from Khadoor Sahib in support of Punjab Democratic Alliance’s (PDA) Paramjeet Kaur Khalra.
The PDA candidate is the wife of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, who disappeared in fake a encounter in Punjab. He was allegedly killed by Punjab police officials in 1995 after he was abducted from his house in Tarn Taran district.
Khalra is Sukhpal Singh Khaira led Punjab Ekta Party’s pick. The PEP is contesting parliamentary polls under the PDA, a joint front of several political outfits.
While Taksali chief Ranjit Singh Brahmpura said was party decision based on demand of the people, General J J Singh (retd) told The Indian Express that it was his call not to contest from Khadoor Sahib.
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Addressing a gathering in Mohali – at the residence of Harsukhinder Singh Babbi Badal who recently quit Akali Dal to join Taksalis – to garner support for party candidate from Anandpur Sahib Bir Devinder Singh, Brahampura said his party would ensure Khalra’s win in case she contests as independent.
“Main ena kehna chahuna main kaum de vaaste, panth de vaaste sab kuchh karan nu tayyar haan (I want to say as much that I am ready to do everything for Sikh community and panth),” J J Singh told The Indian Express when contacted on phone. “Instead of us two competing against each other – since it will benefit the opposition and adversaries contesting against us – we thought why we should benefit the opponents. Apni tarfon faisla leya si, Brahampura Sahib naal share keeta. I took a call on my own and shared it with Brahampura Sahib,” the former Army chief said. “It was my call,” he reiterated.
Brahampura told The Indian Express on phone, “General J J Singh vichare nu taan hun pata laga hona. Hun jo marji kahe. Asin apne taur te party ne faisla leya (General J J Singh might have known about this decision now. He may say whatever he wishes. It is a decision taken by the party).”
Brahampura added party leaders and activists were saying that we should withdraw our candidate and Bibi Khalra should contest as an independent. “We have adhered to the sentiments of the people,” Brahampura said.
In his address in Mohali, Brahampura said Taksalis were first to approach Bibi Khalra but she refused. Brahampura said Bibi Khalra had contested the polls earlier also and ended up forfeiting her security deposit.
Khalra had contested from Tarn Taran in parliamentary polls and lost. “I contested about 20 years ago. Since then, there have been court judgments on forced disappearances,” Khalra said, adding that scenario had changed.
Welcoming the decision of the Taksalis, Khalra said their decision proved that they are “real Taksali Akalis”.
Asked about Brahampura’s remarks that she should contest as independent as he (Brahampura) alleged that some elements were out to get foreign funding in her name, Khalra refuted the charges. She also refuted that SAD (Taksali) approached her to contest as party candidate.
SAD nominee from the constituency Bibi Jagir Kaur said in a statement, “Withdrawing its nominee General J J Singh (retd) from Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha constituency by SAD (Taksali) neither surprised me nor shocked as I had already predicted that the gentleman General would ultimately be ditched by the party.”
Talking to The Indian Express on phone earlier Jagir Kaur said, “Jadon ena nu disya ki ena de palle kakh nahi te jamanat jabat honi hai, vicharayan ne sharam de maare vaapis le leya hona.hor ki? (When they realised that they have nothing in their kitty, they withdrew the name due to shame. What else?).”
Taking a swipe at Brahampura who is sitting MP from Khadoor Sahib, Jagir Kaur said, “A person who is president of a party and MP of the constituency and who is unable to field a party candidate from the constituency, that means they have nothing.”
Terming it a “noble gesture”, Punjab Ekta Paty chief Khaira said, “This would go a long way in forging 100 per cent unity in the opposition ranks of Punjab to defeat the corrupt traditional parties of Congress, SAD and BJP.”
Khaira said he would “personally call up the Taksali leadership to express his gratitude for supporting Khalra’s candidature.”
He urged the Aam Aadmi Party leadership also to “learn a lesson and withdraw their nominee” from Khadoor Sahib.
AAP has fielded Manjinder Singh Sidhu, party’s youth wing president, as candidate from Khadoor Sahib. Congress nominee from the constituency is Jasbir Singh Dimpa, former party MLA.
Leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha and Aam Aadmi Party legislator Harpal Singh Cheema said that “AAP core committee can deliberate on the issue (of withdrawing candidate) only if Paramjit Kaur Khalra resigns as candidate of a party [PEP] and declares to contest as independent.” Cheema added that even if she contests as an independent, the final call would be taken after “considering the facts”.
Jasbir Singh Dimpa, meanwhile, said, “In a way, Bibi Khalra and I went through similar circumstances. I was 17 when my father was shot dead by militants. She was very young when she lost her husband. I wish her best of luck. But as far as votes are concerned, it makes little difference.”
General Singh had contested 2017 Punjab Vidhan Sabha polls unsuccessfully as SAD candidate from Patiala. Recently, he quit SAD to join SAD (Taksali), a political party formed by veteran politicians who were miffed with functioning of Sukhbir Singh Badal as SAD president.
The PDA comprises Sukhpal Singh Khaira-led Punjab Ekta Party (PEP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), Punjab Manch led by suspended AAP MP Dharamvira Gandhi, CPI and the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI).