In unending trouble for Congress from Ludhiana East constituency, Gurmel Singh Pehalwan, an aide of former union minister Manish Tewari and a local leader, announced his Independent candidature Tuesday. Tewari, who was willing to contest from Ludhiana East, was denied ticket reportedly at the behest Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu. Bittu has been handpicked by Rahul Gandhi for contest from Jalalabad against Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. Earlier, Tewari had told The Indian Express some people in the party were insecure about his comeback. Reached for comments today after being denied ticket, Tewari said, “This is not the right time. I will speak at the right time.”
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Meanwhile, levelling serious allegations, Pehelwan, who had contested 2012 polls from Ludhiana East and lost by 4,000 votes, alleged that the ticket was sold for Rs 5 crore. He also announced to file papers as Independent candidate from the seat. Speaking to The Indian Express, Pehalwan said, “I had agreed to opt out only for Tewari ji. If the high command did not want to give him the ticket, I was the best contender as I lost last time only by 4,000 votes. Now, an outsider, Sanjay Talwar, who is a councillor from central constituency, has been given the ticket. I will be filing papers as Independent candidate Wednesday.”
“He is a rich businessman and senior Congress leaders, including Kishori Lal, Harish Chaudhary and Ravneet Bittu, have sold this ticket to Talwar for Rs 5 crore. Money can buy everything now in this party,” alleged Pehalwan. “Even Captain Amarinder Singh has assured ticket to Tewari. What will Captain do if deals are done based on money,” he said. Refuting the allegations, Talwar said, “There has been a very healthy competition for this ticket and had I bought this ticket, why the announcement would have been delayed till the last day of nominations. All these are baseless allegations. I have nothing against Tewari ji. The Congress high command has just respected a ground level worker. I have been working in Ludhiana East for months and already held 200 meetings with workers.”
Rejecting the “outsider” charge, Talwar said, “My father owns a petrol pump and a real estate dealer office in East constituency for three decades. Yes, I am a councillor from central area and own a spinning mill there, but that doesn’t mean I cannot work in East. I am a three-time councillor and in constant touch with workers in east.” Bittu also refuted all allegations of ticket being sold. “What do I have to do with Tewari? It is not my personal choice which led to ticket distribution in Congress. Even I was not asked before being fielded from Jalalabad. It is choice of the high command, not mine, to field Tewari or not,” he said.