Politics: Will Shiromani Akali Dal contest Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye election?

Will Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contest the ensuing Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye-election? Though the Election Commission is yet to announce a schedule for holding the bye-election against a seat vacated by the death of incumbent Santoskh Singh Chaudhary of Congress, it is expected to go to polls next month.

Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye-election has assumed tremendous significance as it would serve a litmus test for all political parties, including the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the State, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party at the centre; Congress that has its stronghold in Jalandhar; and  Shiromani Akali Dal and its alliance partner Bahujan Samaj Party.

In the previous 19 elections to the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat, Congress won on 15 occasions, including five times in a row by former foreign minister Swaran Singh. Only four times, the seat has gone to other parties. Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral won from here twice, first in 1989 and again in 1998. On both the occasions he won on the Janata Dal ticket and was supported by Shiromani Akali Dal.

Shiromani Akali Dal won this seat twice, first in 1977 during the Janata Party wave when Iqbal Singh Dhillon was declared successful and again in 1996 when Darbara Singh, father in law of Jalandhar Cantonment  Congress MLA Pargat Singh won.

Santokh Singh Chaudhary, who died after suffering a massive heart attack during Bharat Jodho yatra of Congress led by Rahul Gandhi last month, belonged to a family that enjoys tremendous political acceptability in this Doaba seat. Santoskh Singh’s elder brother, Chaudhary Jagjeet Singh, too represented this area in the State Legislature for a long time.

Since there is almost a year left for the current Lok Sabha to complete its term, bye election to this seat may be announced any time. While Congress would go all out to defend this seat, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, too, would make every effort for a foothold in this strong Dalit belt of the Doab region.

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As speculations go , Congress may seek sympathy vote in the name of late MP Santoskh Singh and may name his widow as the party candidate. All other parties have yet to narrow down on their probable candidates.

The SAD-BSP alliance will have to take a policy decision on whether to contest this bye election or not. In the last bye election to Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, the alliance had ended a poor fifth even though it used the sympathy card of getting Sikh prisoners released from various soils at the end of their sentences.

The Bharatiya Janata Party may like to go alone to test waters. It will have to look for a strong candidate in a belt that may have sent BJP Legislators to Punjab Vidhan Sabha but never returned anyone to Lok Sabha.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, Santokh Singh of Congress had polled 3.86 lakh votes against 3.66 lakh polle by the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate, Charanjit Singh Athwal. In that election, BSP had contested independently and finished third by aggregating 2.04 lakh votes while Justice Jora Singh, representing AAP, finished a poor fourth by polling 25,470 votes.

Prabhjot Singh

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