Chandigarh, Jan 23: Poll bugle has been sounded in the state of Punjab with all the 117 assembly seats to be contested on February 4. The political parties in the fray have announced the list of their candidates. The period to file nomination papers ended on January 18.
Although Uttar Pradesh has grabbed eyeballs among other five states which are going to polls, Punjab also offers an intriguing electoral battle. The elections in the frontier state is a triangular contest. The incumbent regime of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is being challenged by Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). ALSO: Full list of AAP candidates.
Congress has lately grabbed the media space with the entry of high-profile candidate, Navjot Singh Sidhu, in the party. Congress was also soaring in terms of popularity, as its presumptive chief ministerial candidate, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been voted as the best CM choice in ABP News-Nielsen and India Today-Axis survey. ALSO: Full list of Congress candidates.
In terms of seat-to-seat electoral fight, AAP has not refrained to enter into enemy’s bastion. To put up a serious fight, AAP has fielded Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann from Jalalabad (Fazilka), the seat represented by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The party has also challenged Bikram Singh Majithia from his home turf of Majithia by fielding Himmat Singh Shergill. ALSO: Full list of BJP candidates.
Key candidates of Punjab assembly elections 2017:
Branded as ‘Punjab da Captain’ in the run-up to upcoming elections, Capt Amarinder Singh has been campaigning in a solid manner to mark the first state-election victory for Congress after 2014 Lok Sabha debacle.
Capt Amarinder Singh would be contesting from the Patiala (Urban) seat. The assembly segment has been represented by him on three consecutive occasions, from 2002 to 2014. Since he got elected in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the seat fell vacant. It was bagged by his wife Praneet Kaur shortly thereafter.
Apart from contesting the seat of Patiala, Amarinder is also set to challenge incumbent chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi constituency. Addressing the media after filing his nomination, the 74-year-old said, “This is my last elections and I would ensure that I defeat the Badals.”
In order to counter the all-gun blazing style of politics being played by Capt Amarinder Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fielded Gen. JJ Singh against him. The electoral battle for Patiala assembly seat would be fought between two ex-servicemen. Capt Amarinder has ridiculed the challenge posed by Gen Singh, saying, “For the first time a General would be defeated by a captain. I personally respect him as he is the former chief of Army. I am sad that he has turned into a pawn in the hands of Akalis. He is welcome to Patiala, but he would be defeated.”
Gen JJ Singh struck back at Capt. Amarinder for the scathing remarks. Addressing the press on Tuesday, he said, “A Captain is a Captain and a General is General. There is no match between the two.” Gen JJ Singh challenged Amarinder to save his own constituency, adding that he would lose both Patiala and Lambi (the seat where Amarinder is challenging Parkash Singh Badal). ” I am using the strategy which he cannot match,” Gen JJ Singh was quoted as saying Tribune India.
Incumbent Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would be contesting from the Lambi constituency. The 89-year-old veteran Akali leader has represented the seat for four consecutive terms. Badal is reportedly facing massive anti-incumbency, owing to the reported drug menace, corruption and unemployment in the state.
Badal is being challenged from his bastion by Capt Amarinder Singh. The latter, who has announced that the forthcoming polls would be his last, claims that he would defeat Badal in his final electoral battle.
The fight in Lambi is triangular as AAP has fielded its prominent Sikh leader Jarnail Singh to contest from the seat.
Although Akali Dal has not announced the chief ministerial candidate if they return to power, it is expected that Badal would step down and anoint son Sukhbir as his successor.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and deputy chief minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal would be contesting from Jalalabad in Fazilka district. Sukhbir is the reigning two-time MLA from the seat. While filing his nomination from the seat, the 54-year-old confidently asserted that he would be winning with a huge mandate.
The battle in Jalalabad has turned intense as AAP has fielded its most popular regional face Bhagwant Mann. The Sangrur MP has vowed to defeat Sukhbir from his own bastion.
The contest in Jalalabad would remain triangular, as Congress has also fielded a heavyweight. The party has given the ticket to Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.
Sukhbir faces a tough challenge in Jalalabad as the anti-incumbency against him has been growing in Jalalabad. His victory margin dropped by nearly 30,000 votes in 2012 polls.
Another crucial candidate in the Punjab poll fray is Bhagwant Mann. The AAP lawmaker from Sangrur is challenging Sukhbir Singh Badal from the Jalalabad constituency.
The 43-year-old comedian-turned-politician was relatively green in politics. Although he was earlier the vice president of Punjab People’s Party (PPP), he shot to prominence after joining AAP in 2013. Mann succeeded in wresting the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat for AAP in 2014 polls.
As a parliamentarian, Mann succeeded in grabbing eyeballs through his satirical poems in Lok Sabha, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, he drew severe flak after he live streamed his entry into the Parliament House in the Monsoon Session. Lok Sabha Speaker had suspended Mann for his irresponsible act.
Although Mann is pulling huge crowds in Punjab, he has mostly attracted negative publicity so far in the national media. In one of the rallies, Mann was seen expressing anguish against the reporters, and saying that “we would win elections without your coverage”. The most recent controversy surrounding Mann was reported in the past week, when he was accused of provoking his supporters in Jalalabad to ‘greet the Badals with stones’. A couple of days later, the convoy of Sukhbir in Fazilka was attacked with stones allegedly by supporters of AAP.
Bikram Singh Majithia is contesting from his incumbent seat of Majitha. He has represented the seat for three consecutive terms. Majithia first wrested the seat for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in 2002. His victory margin has further escalated in the 2007 and 2012 elections. In the upcoming polls, AAP has fielded key state leader Himmat Singh Shergill to take on Majithia. Congress has fielded Sukhjinder Raj Singh, the candidate who lost against Majithia on the past two occasions.
Majithia, 41, is the youngest cabinet minister in the Parkash Singh Badal government, heading the revenue department. He is blamed by a section of the Opposition of being the alleged kingpin of drug racket in Punjab. Majithia first came under scanner after a drug peddle Jagdish Bhola reportedly named him as one of the politicians involved in the racket during interrogations.
Majithia has turned into an essential poll plank for the Opposition parties, especially the AAP. Kejriwal has promised to send Majithia to jail by April 15 if AAP comes to power.
The drug racket in Punjab is worth nearly Rs 700 crore. enforcement Directorate is currently probing the case. According to AAP leader Sanjay Singh, the ED records indicate that Majithia is involved in the multi-crore drug racket in the state.
Manpreet Singh Badal is contesting from the Bathinda (urban) constituency on the Congress ticket. The veteran politician faces the challenge of defeating incumbent SAD MLA Sarup Chand Singla. AAP has fielded Deepak Bansal, a first-timer in electoral politics.
Manpreet had earlier served as the 4-time MLA from Gidderbaha constituency on the Akali ticket. He was defeated in 2012.
Manpreet, member of the politically dominant Badal clan, broke away from SAD in 2010 and formed the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP). However, the political experiment proved unsuccessful, which compelled him to merge with Congress in January 2016.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has been fielded by Congress from Amritsar East constituency. The seat was represented in the outgoing assembly by his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu. She had bagged the assembly segment in 2012 on the BJP ticket.
Sidhu filed his nomination last week, with much fanfare. His entry into the Congress has further boosted the campaign of Capt Amarinder Singh. The probabilities of Sidhu bagging the seat remains high since he has represented the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat thrice in the Parliament.
Sidhu is being challenged from the seat by BJP candidate Rajesh Hani. AAP has fielded Sarabjot Singh Dhanjal from the constituency.
The Bains brothers of Ludhiana – Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Bains have aligned their Lok Insaf Party with AAP in the run up to the forthcoming polls. Balwinder would be contesting from his incumbent seat of Ludhiana South. The seat was bagged by him from Shiromani Akali Dal in 2012 by a margin of more than 30,000 votes.
Balwinder is being challenged by Akali candidate and former MLA from the seat, Hira Singh Gabria. Congress has fielded Bhupinder Sidhu from the seat.
One of the most prominent faces of AAP in Punjab, Adv. H S Phoolka is contesting from Dakha constituency. The seat is currently being represented by Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali. Congress will field Major Singh Bhaini from the constituency.
Dakha has a total of 1,63,910 registered voters. In the 2012 elections, Akali lead Ayali bagged the seat with a margin of more than 17,000 votes.
Phoolka is a revered figure among the Punjabis due to his judicial activism to seek justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims. Pollsters claim that he also one of the potential chief ministerial candidates for AAP if the comes to power in Punjab.
The former state convenor of AAP, Sucha Singh Chhotepur is contesting from the Gurdaspur constituency. He has filed the nomination as a candidate of Apna Punjab Party, the political outfit he floated after being suspended from AAP.
Chhotepur faces the task of defeating sitting two-time Akali MLA Gurbachan Singh Babbehali. Congress has fielded Barindollt Singh Pahra from the seat. Whereas, the AAP candidate from the seat is Amarjeet Singh Chahal.
Chhotepur appears as a promising candidate from the seat. The veteran politician was first elected as an MLA in 1985. He grew to prominence after being promoted as a state minister in the government of Surjit Singh Barnala. He quit the regime after the Operation Black Thunder, where he opposed the manner in which the security forces acted to trace terrorists.
Chhotepur was handpicked by Kejriwal in 2013 to build AAP from the scratch in Punjab. He was expelled in August 2016 after a party member submitted evidence to party high command of Chhotepur accepting money for allotment of tickets. The allegations are yet to be approved through a police enquiry.