DENIAL OF ticket to former jails minister and SAD leader Sarwan Singh Phillaur is not only a setback to the senior Dalit leader but also poured cold water on the Congress’s attempt to poach on Akali’s Dalit face in Doaba. While most of the Congress leaders in the screening committee were against Phillaur getting ticket, considering that he and his son Damanvir Singh Phillaur were summoned by Enforcement Directorate in a drugs case, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh defended Phillaur, citing his winnability.
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Phillaur, a strong Dalit leader in Doaba, was the sitting MLA from Phillaur. He won the seat in 2012 despite SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal changing his constituency from his bastion Kartarpur to Phillaur. But the “blot” of ED summons cost him dear. Senior party leaders argued that by nominating him, the party would give a handle to Aam Aadmi Party, already alleging a nexus between Akalis and Congress.
This time, SAD denied ticket to Phillaur, Congress poached on him but strong opposition from leaders like former Punjab Congress presidents Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo came in the way of his nomination.
However, Phillaur told the Indian Express that he was unfazed. “I have vowed to rout Akali Dal in Doaba. I will help Congress. I had joined the party unconditionally. Captain saab only wanted me to contest. I will meet him and general secretary in-charge Asha Kumari to decide my next course.”
The Congress lost badly from Doaba, a region dominated by Dalits, in 2012, winning only six of the 25 seats. It also lost all nine seats in Jalandhar. Insiders blamed senior leaders for not having a prominent Dalit face, except Chaudharys.
Incidentally, two Chaudharys got tickets this election from the Congress, including Karmjit Kaur Chaudhary (Phillaur), wife of sitting MP from Hoshiarpur, Chaudhary Santokh Singh, and his nephew Surinder Singh Chaudhary (Kartarpur), bending the one-family-one-ticket diktat. Bajwa’s wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa was denied ticket because Bajwa’s younger brother Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa was nominated. Similarly, former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s son-in-law, Vikram Bajwa, a claimant from Sahnewal, is not likely to get the nod as his mother-in-law is contesting. Surinder is the son of former minister, late Chaudhary Jagjit, brother of Chaudhary Santokh. Chaudhary Jagjit was considered thick with Amarinder. Both were named accused in the Ludhiana City Centre Scam.
The party has, however, struck a balance between the Ravidassia and Valmiki/Majhbi Sikh communities by nominating former MLA Joginder Singh Mann from Phagwara (SC).