Contributing eight seats to the total Congress tally of 77 in Punjab, none of the MLAs from the largest district of Ludhiana (Assembly seat wise) have been inducted yet in the Cabinet of newly sworn-in Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Of the 14 seats in Ludhiana, Congress has won eight. The industrial hub of the country and the first city from Punjab to storm into the list of PM Narendra Modi’s Smart City Project, the people of Ludhiana are vouching for a representative in Captain’s Cabinet.
With none of the Ludhiana MLAs making it to the first list of Captain’s Cabinet, lobbying has intensified. Ludhiana North MLA Rakesh Pandey, who won for the sixth time now, and Amrik Dhillon, four-time MLA from Samrala, are on top of the seniority list when it comes to picking a minister from Ludhiana.
But, there have been surprises earlier, too. In December 2015, it was Ludhiana West MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu, a young face who won for the second time, was elevated as deputy CLP leader in the Assembly ignoring both Pandey and Dhillon. This time, too, Ashu won Ludhiana West by one of the highest margins of 36,521 votes against Ahbaab Grewal of AAP. So has Surinder Dabur from Ludhiana Central who won for the third time by over 24,000 votes. However, Ashu’s proximity to Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu could also be a shot in the arm for him.
Another corner which can spring surprise is Khanna where Gurkirat Kotli, grandson of former CM Beant Singh and brother of Bittu, has won for the second time and by 20,591 votes. “Pandey, Dabur and Dhillon might be seniors. But like Ashu, Kotli is a young face with his grandfather’s legacy attached to him. We won’t be surprised if he makes it to the Cabinet from Ludhiana,” said a source.
The suspense over Ludhiana North had continued till the last moment as the high command was not in favour of giving the ticket to Pandey due to “unfavourable” survey results. But, he managed to retain his seat for the sixth time by 5,132 votes against BJP’s Parveen Bansal.
Pandey said, “Ludhiana cannot be ignored at any cost. It is the largest city in Punjab and industrial hub. It is entirely a decision of our honourable CM Captain Amarinder Singh to take a call but I will be happy if I am given this responsibility. It is for sixth time that I have won my seat.” Ashu, meanwhile, said he has no wish to be minister. Asked about his alleged tiff with Pandey, he said, “There is no tiff. He is our senior and I know my limitations. Before me, it is Pandey or Dabur, who deserve to be in the Cabinet. I have no such desire. I will work for the people of my constituency who have elected me.” Dhillon said, “Not one but at least two from Ludhiana should be in the Cabinet. It is a big district with 14 Assembly seats. But it is entirely a decision of Maharaja saab.”
Leader of opposition HS Phoolka from AAP said, “Captain must see to it that representation from Ludhiana is a must.”