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Friday, January 28, 2022

Punjab: Congress screening committee sends fresh list of over 70 names to Sonia Gandhi, list to be out soon

The party this time is also not allowing anyone to change their constituencies in order to compete the polls. Cabinet minister, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, will be contesting from Gidderbaha. Former CM, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is likely to be fielded from Lehra Gaga.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 14, 2022 10:36:47 pm
The screening committee, led by Ajay Maken, will meet again in the evening to clear names for the second list. (File)

The Congress screening committee, that met on Friday, has sent a revised list of at least 70 candidate names to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi for her final nod, with sources stating that the party may release its list anytime now. The Central Election Committee (CEC) of the party is not scheduled to meet on Friday.

Sources said the list mostly comprises of names on which the screening committee had a consensus. These names, it is learnt, were cleared by the Central Election Committee of Congress on Thursday. The screening committee, led by Ajay Maken, will meet again in the evening to clear names for the second list.

“There is no CEC meet as of now today [Friday]. We have not received any information. But the party can announce the first list anytime as they have a revised list in which all candidates included have a consensus. These names were read out by CEC on Thursday and faced no opposition. Wherever there were issues, these were sorted,” said a leader, privy to the discussions.

He added that mostly the list had the names of sitting MLAs and ministers and several obvious candidates. The screening committee was able to reach a consensus on former minister Raghunath Sahai Puri’s son, Naresh Puri’s candidature despite former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar’s opposition. The screening committee was told by current Punjab Congress chief, Navjot Sidhu, that Puri’s surveys were good and he was a winnable candidate.

The screening committee is also learnt to have kept pending the ticket from Garhshankar from where Jakhar is backing PYC leader Amarpreet Lally and Chief Minister Charanjit Channi has backed Nimisha Mehta. Channi is learnt to have told the screening committee that Mehta had the backing of Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari also. Garhshankar was a part of Anandpur Sahib parliamentary segment. Rajya Sabha MP Partap Bajwa’s ticket from Qadian has been finalised and his name may figure in the first list.

The party this time is also not allowing anyone to change their constituencies in order to compete the polls. Cabinet minister, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, will be contesting from Gidderbaha. Former CM, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is likely to be fielded from Lehra Gaga. Candidates from some key constituencies — including former CM Parkash Singh Badal’s Lambi, former CM Amarinder Singh’s Patiala (urban) and Sukhbir Badal’s Jalalabad — are likely to be decided later.

Murmurs of dissent start

Meanwhile, even before the Congress could releases its first list of candidates, voices of dissent had started cropping up from various quarters. Former minister and chairman Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, Joginder Singh Mann, on Friday quit the Congress anticipating that the party was not going to announce him as its candidate from Phagwara. Mann is now likely to join Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

He had staked claim from Phagwara despite the party having a sitting MLA from Phagwara in BS Dhaliwal, who was fielded during the byelection in 2019. Dhaliwal has the support of Navjot Sidhu, who has so far addressed a rally and backed him as a candidate from Phagwara .
Likewise, in Mansa, sitting MLA, Nazar Singh Mansahia, who had joined the Congress after quitting AAP in 2019, also shot off a letter to the party high command stating that he should be given a party ticket. The party is planning to field Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who was inducted into the Congress a month ago, from the seat.

On Friday, Mansahia said that a ticket to Moosewala would not benefit the party even if the party thought that a Punjabi singer, who is a rage among youths, would hone up its chances by cornering the votes from youths across the state.

In Moga also, sitting MLA Dr Harjot Kamal is likely to be rejected by the party this time. The Congress has finalised the candidature of Bollywood actor and philanthropist Sonu Sood’s sister, Malvika Sood Sachar, from the seat. Malvika had recently joined the Congress, despite having been wooed by several parties.

Besides Dr Harjot Kamal, two more sitting MLAs — Ajaib Singh Bhatti from Malout, who is also the Deputy Speaker, and Nathu Ram, from Balluana — may also be dropped. From Malout, the Congress is likely to field AAP’s current MLA from Bathinda (rural), Rupinder Kaur Ruby, who had joined the Congress a few days ago.

The ticket of Khadoor Sahib MLA Ramajit Singh Sikki is also learnt to be “iffy.” Sitting MP from Khadoor Sahib, Jasbir Singh Dimpa, has already claimed a stake on the seat. The final decision, however, has been left to the CEC now on whether they want the MPs to stake a claim on the ticket or let a sitting MLA continue.

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