December 17, 2016 12:20:08 am
With its first list of 61 candidates for the Punjab Assembly polls out, Congress is up against several challenges in deciding the remaining 56. The party took about a month to decide its first list after its Punjab Election Committee (PEC) met in Chandigarh on November 20. And from the list, it is clear the PEC put off the difficult decisions for the second list. Thursday’s list included 46 candidates who contested the 2012 polls and the seats on which the party is certain no rebellion would take place.
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For the remaining seats, the party’s biggest problem is to decide on tickets it promised to those who joined it in the last one month. There is huge opposition from within to giving tickets to these recent entrants. In the last few weeks, the party has welcomed several Akalis into its fold and, at least one BJP MLA, Navjot Kaur Sidhu. All expect to be nominated from their seats and most crossed over to the Congress only because they feared that they would be given tickets by the parent party.
Expecting a fierce backlash, Congress is not likely to announce the second list in a hurry. The party’s Central Election Committee is set to meet post December 21only after the party, including any disgruntled element, swallows the first list. AICC president Sonia Gandhi has assigned senior leader Ambika Soni to lend a ear to dissidents, if any, and tamp down any rebellion.
Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, who spent over 20 days in Delhi since November 27, is likely to resume campaigning till the December 21 CEC.
While the party’s screening committee led by former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot is learnt to have finalised panels of candidates for each of the remaining constituencies, the final call is CEC’s.
The first list did not announce names for Amritsar East, claimed by former BJP MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, now with the Congress, Amritsar South eyed by ex-SAD MLA Amrit Bolaria, Jalandhar Cantonment claimed by Pargat Singh, Phillaur eyed by Sarwan Singh Phillaur, the former SAD MLA from Kartarpur, Nihal Singh Wala claimed by Rajwinder Kaur, Samanand by former SAD leader Harinder Singh Harry Mann.
Senior vice-president Lal Singh, a sitting MLA from Sanaur, does not find mention either. His son, Rajinder Singh, is a ticket claimant from Samana. The senior vice-president is learnt to be pushing for two seats, against Amarinder’s ‘one seat one family’ diktat.
Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, a sitting MLA from Gidderbaha, is seeking to contest from Muktsar, from where Karan Kaur Brar is the party MLA. Both factions are using their might to get the ticket. Warring is close to AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Amarinder has issued a diktat that no sitting MLA will change his constituency.
In Sahnewal constituency from where Amarinder is pushing for Punjabi singer Satwinder Kaur Bitti, former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s bet is on her son-in-law Bikram Singh Bajwa.
Congress stalwart and former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari is a strong contender for Ludhiana East, but sitting MP Ravneet Bittu is opposing his candidature.
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