January 25, 2022 12:53:39 am
Almost a month into the launch of a political party by 21 farmer unions of Punjab to contest state polls, the road to electoral success seems fraught with festering infighting over ticket distribution. While the number of total farm outfits part of Sanyukt Samaj Morcha has come down to 17 over the course of the month, now for the first time the SSM has been forced to withdraw two of its declared candidates for the February 20 Assembly elections.
These two whose tickets have been cancelled are Harwinder Singh Harpalpur, who is SAD leader Prem Singh Chandumajra’s nephew, from Rajpura and Balraj Singh Thakur from Qadian.
“We had announced 100 candidates, but as two names have been taken back, total announced candidates now stand at 98. There was wide spread feedback from masses to change these candidates and they even suggested better candidates. So, we changed them,” said Prem Singh Bhangu, a member of the SSM’s screening committee and its candidate from Ghanaur constituency in Patiala.
But the tussle over tickets is not limited to two seats.
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Gurjeet Singh Brar, president of Punjab Kisan Union, Faridkot district, is unhappy over the name of an ahrtiya, Kulbir Matta. He said, “This Ahrtiya has filed cases of cheque bounce against many farmers. He takes signed blank cheques from farmers who borrow money from him. So, many farmers are unhappy with his approach of dealing with them. In that case, should we support the poor and marginal farmers or this ahrtiya? Moreover, I didn’t see him going to Delhi borders even for a week. Farmers by and large are unhappy over his name and I have conveyed it to the state president of our union as well. Let’s see what happens.”
While Abhikaran Singh is a candidate of SSM from Barnala constituency, but farmers are not really aware about him.
Jagseer Singh Chhiniwal, from BKU Qadian, Barnala unit, said, “He used to live in Barnala earlier but now is settled in Mansa…He was in AAP earlier and as he didn’t get any ticket from them, he got it from SSM. But we don’t know him. At least a face active in Barnala should have been announced as a candidate.”
Differences have erupted on many other seats as well including over tickets to former BSP leaders from four seats .
Rashpal Singh Raju, who is fighting from Chabbewal, is former BSP president of Punjab, while a retired IAS officer Khushi Ram, who had contested 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Hoshiarpur on BSP ticket, is now the SSM candidate from Phagwara. Thekedar Bhagwan Das is the candidate from Sham Chaurasi, while Purshottam Ahir from Adampur. They too had left BSP and formed a new front which has entered an alliance with with SSM. BKU, Qadian, Hoshiarpur unit members have objected to these four candidates.
In addition to this, objections were also raised over candidature of Baba Chamkaur Singh from Bhucho constituency of Bathinda district. His name was announced on January 17 and after two days, Chamkaur was named as candidate from Bathinda Rural, while Baldev Singh Aklia was named as the new candidate from Bhucho.
Dr Amarjeet Singh Mann, a social activist is the candidate from Sunam constituency of Sangrur district.
“Mann is an activist, but he didn’t go at Delhi borders. I fail to understand the criteria of choosing candidates,” said a farmer from the area.
Not only this, BKU, Mansa, unit had expelled their president Bogh Singh Mansa from the union as he became part of the SSM.
After this decision, Bogh Singh himself hasn’t offered to contest from any seat, but his supporter Chhota Singh Mian has been given ticket from Sardulgarh constituency of Mansa district.
Information revealed that Jaswant Singh Randhawa is the SSM candidate from Mukerian, but he remained part of Congress and a Zila Parishad member too. He had opposed ticket of Congress candidate Indu Malhotra.
Navdeep Sangha is the candidate from Moga, but he resigned from AAP on the day his ticket was announced from SSM.
Before that he also remained in SAD and Congress too. Sangha is in film making business and a liquor contractor too.
Raj Kumar Mehal Khurd, who is contesting from Banga, is also an AAP rebel, while Dr Jang Bahadur from Garshanker is again a SAD rebel.
“If tickets had to be given to rebels of other parties only, what is the difference between us and other political parties. Somehow, I am not happy with the working of SSM. Everything happened in a haste,” said an activist from Barnala over ticket distribution.
Not only this, even CPI (ML) Liberation has announced to fight on their own after refusing to contest on the SSM’s symbol.
Initially, SSM had announced Bhagwant Samao, a state committee member as candidate from Bhadaur constituency of Barnala, but now he is contesting on CPI (ML) Liberation symbol, while SSM has announced name of Gora Singh from Bhadaur. Gora Singh is from BKU Sidhupur union. CPI (ML) Liberation and SSM will be having a face off on 11 seats.
CPI too will be contesting on their own symbol, but SSM will not be fielding any candidate in front of CPI candidates on 7 seats.
Meanwhile, SSM and CPI are still in talks as the latter want to contest on nine seats on their symbol instead of 7 just now.
In addition to this, four unions BKU Kadian, Doaba Kisan Committee, BKU Doaba and Kul Hind Kisan Sabha of Major Singh Punnawal, which were earlier part of SSM, have now stated that they will not be contesting polls. So, from 21 farmer unions as on December 25 last year, now only 17 are part of SSM.
Harmeet Singh Qadian, president of BKU Qadian, “Anyone who wants to contest elections, can resign from the union and contest. However, I am not contesting any poll. So far, only one person from our union — Ravneet Singh Brar — has resigned and is contesting from Mohali. How will we support SSM, that will be decided in another 2-3 days. Our 5 member committee will decide as to which party should we support or remain neutral.”
Meanwhile, BKU (Dakaunda) in their January 21 convention at Barnala categorically stated that all candidates will be questioned including the ones fielded by the SSM. This union also has preferred to stay away from contesting polls, while BKU (Ugrahan) — the largest union of Punjab — had already said no to politics and their president Joginder Singh Ugrahan had stated that union will stay neutral in the Assembly polls.
Bhangu, when asked about objections over other candidates, said, “We have withdrawn names of two candidates after we found that objections were there from a large section of society. However, if scattered objections are coming for few seats that will be sorted out in 3-4 days because we have to listen to the voice of majority based on which we are giving tickets. All tickets will be announced soon.”
Meanwhile, the SSM hasn’t even been allotted a symbol till now.
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