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First Punjab election without Senior Badal is expected to be fierce and tough

SAD has been struggling to retain its identity as a major political force.

Team Parvasi – Inside

On Wednesday when electors in Jalandhar go out to vote to elect their new MP for the remaining part of the tenure, they will have a difficult choice to make. All major parties are locked in a pitched battle that may serve as a semi-final to the 2024 general elections in the country.

It is the first election after reorganisation of the State in 1966 that will be held without Parkash Singh Badal, a stalwart  who dominated the State political scenario for almost 57 years. His absence may impact the outcome as it will be the second by poll after the 2022 Assembly elections where his party, Shiromani Akali Dal, will be fighting with its back to the wall. SAD has been struggling to retain its identity as a major political force.

After a dismal performance in the 2022 assembly elections, the first by poll held for Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, was least to its liking as it finished a poor fifth. And this time, it is further handicapped by the absence of its most capped leader, late Parkash Singh Badal.

Though Jalandhar has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, the only party other than Congress and Janata Dal to win from here has been Shiromani Akali Dal. Iqbal Singh had been the lone SAD candidate to represent Jalandhar in Lok Sabha. Other than him, if any other leader represented this sports industry town in Lok Sabha, then it was former Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral, who was elected twice from this constituency. On both the occasions, his candidature was supported by SAD.

No political battle is won till the last vote has been cast. And Jalandhar by poll has forced all major political players – both national and regional – to sweat to brow.

While Congress has been working hard to retain hold of its seat, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party wants to put behind the reverse it suffered in the Sangrur Lok Sabha by poll.

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party at the centre, is trying again to win an election after breaking away from its traditional alliance partner  Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Interestingly, the SAD too has in alliance with its new political partner, Bahujan Samaj Party, made it a prestigious battle for its political comeback in the State after humiliating defeats, both in the last Assembly and the Sangrur Lok Sabha by polls.

Stakes are high.

No party is taking any chances. While the top leadership of AAP, BJP, SAD and BSP has been out in the constituency to convince the voters, Congress that has won this seat five times out of eight contests, is banking upon its State leadership for campaign.

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Intriguingly, the seat fell vacant after the incumbent, Chaudhary Santokh Singh, died of a heart attack while participating in the “Bharat Jodo” initiative of Rahul Gandhi.

Since the Doab region is traditionally a Dalit stronghold, the ruling AAP wants to make a dent in the State politics by wresting this seat from Jalandhar. It is one reason that the party has distributed work, putting all its legislators, including ministers, at work assigning them specific tasks in specific wards to secure a minimum mandate to ensure success of new entrant to party, Sushil Kumar Rinku, who until recently was a former Congress MLA.

This is one election that is being fought by those who changed parties. Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, son of former Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal, joined BJP just a day before filing his nomination papers. Subsequently, senior Atwal, too, quit SAD on moral grounds and joined the Saffron party that of late has scored over all their political opponents in reigning maximum number of Sikh politicians in its fold.

The SAD-BSP alliance had a difficult choice in announcing its candidate. It, however, cleverly played its cards by naming its sitting legislator from Banga, Dr Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, who originally comes from BSP.

Needless to reiterate that all elections are fiercely fought. But Jalandhar by poll is different from the rest. This is the second time after Sangrur by poll that all major political parties are in the fray. They are leaving nothing to chance.

Criticising their opponents, they all are promising to get Jalandhar its due with its all-round development.

Interestingly, the Jalandhar by poll, voting for which will be held on May 10,  witnesses a triangular contest between sitting and former MLAs. The fourth contestant is the widow of the incumbent MP.

It is this election which may have witnessed maximum defections. Latest to cross over from Congress to BJP is a member of Avtar Singh Henry’s family.

Rana Gurjit Singh family that has been working for the success of Congress candidate Karamjit Kaur, has one of the cousins of senior Rana, Hardeep Singh,  working for AAP candidate.

Prabhjot Singh

NEWS

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