The Punjab Congress on Thursday declared its second list of 16 candidates for the forthcoming Assembly elections, choosing winnability over other considerations to go with four new faces, including two youth. The names of these 16 candidates were finalized in New Delhi on Wednesday by the Congress Electoral Committee (CEC), which met under the leadership of party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi.
As announced by Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, who had set off intense speculations by stating that "non-performing” sitting legislators will be dropped and seats of Dalit MLAs will be swapped, the party did not name MLA Joginder Singh Panjgrain from the reserved seat of Jaito and Tarlochan Singh Soondh from Banga.
Six of the party’s sitting MLAs who got tickets to fight from their respective seats are – Indian Youth Congress President Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), three-time MLAs Amrik Singh Dhillon (Samrala) and Jagmohan Singh Kang (Kharar), besides Karan Kaur Brar from Muktsar seat.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh said only credible and winnable candidates have been given the tickets and winnability is the sole criterion for selection.
The list also includes three fresh faces, Darshan Lal Mangepur from Balachaur and Harwinder Singh Laddi (ex-PPP) from Bathinda (Rural) seat, along with Nirmal Singh Nimma, a two-time MLA from BSP, from the Bhadaur Reserve seat.
The two youth candidates nominated by the party are Birenderjit Singh Pahra (Gurdaspur) and Daman Thind Bajwa (Sunam).
Daman and Karan Brar are the two women in this list, taking the total number of women candidates declared so far by the party to eight.
The list also has stamp of Amarinder’s other diktat -- that seats of sitting MLAs from general seats will not be changed. The four other sitting MLAs who have been retained in the second list will defend their own turfs.
The Central Election Committee (CEC) of the Congress had on Tuesday finalised 25 candidates in the second round, but it announced names of only 16 of them.
Steering clear of MLAs and leaders who have joined the Congress from SAD and seats where it has yet to reach a consensus on the candidate, the party has however fielded more leaders from erstwhile People’s Party of Punjab whose chief Manpreet Badal is now the Congress candidate from Bathinda (urban). Former PPP leaders Harwinder Singh Laddi and Darshan Singh have found a place in the list along with former BSP MLA Nirmal Singh Nimma.
The seats of former BJP and Akali Dal MLAs -- Navjot Kaur Sidhu, Pargat Singh, Inderbir Bolaria -- do not find a mention, including that of Akali-turned-Congressmen such as Deepinder Dhillon and Harry Mann.
The two lists released so far of 77 candidates in total was largely acceptable to all with hardly any controversy arising. However, it is the remaining 40 seats out of 117, where Captain Amarinder Singh will have to show his political prowess as other senior leaders like Partap Singh Bajwa - considered to be close to Rahul Gandhi are making a strong pitch for their candidates.
Congress second list: All 16 names
Gurdaspur: Barinderjit Singh Pahra
Khem Karan: Sukhpal Singh Bhullar
Bholath: Gurwinder Singh Atwal
Kartarpur (SC) : Chaudhary Surinder Singh
Banga (SC): Dr Satnam Singh Kainth
Balachaur: Chaudhary Darshan Lal Mangepur
Kharar: Jagmohan Singh Kang
Samrala: Amrik Singh Dhillon
Gidderbaha: Amrinder Singh Raja Warring
Malout (SC): Ajaib Singh Bhatti
Muktsar: Karan Kaur Brar
Jaitu (SC): Mohammad Sadique
Bathinda rural (SC): Harvinder Singh Laddi
Sunam: Daman Thind Bajwa
Bhadaur (SC): Nirmal Singh Nimma
Amargarh: Surjeet Singh Dhiman