Capt Amarinder over-ruled while declaring candidates for Bathinda and Ferozepur

Chandigarh, April 20: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who had his say in the finalisation of eleven candidates in Punjab, has been over-ruled by Congress president Rahul Gandhi while declaring nominees for politically the most crucial seats of Bathinda and Ferozepur.

The party today announced sitting MP Sher Singh Ghubaya from Ferozepur and Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring from Bathinda.

These two seats have the potential to dictate the future political discourse of Punjab. Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has won from Bathinda twice, in 2009 and 2014 while her husband and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal has thrown enough hints of contesting from Ferozepur.

Sources maintain that the party announced the two candidates without meeting of the election committee today. All earlier candidates for seats in Punjab were announced after formal meetings.

Capt Amarinder Singh had recommended two sets of candidates for these two seats. His recommendation was finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal for Ferosepur and Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from Bathinda.

He had assured Rahul of winning these two seats with these two candidates. Both Manpreet and Dr Sidhu had refused to contest. Dr Sidhu was interested in Chandigarh but not averse to contesting from Amritsar.  Capt Amarinder had conveyed to the Congress chief that  they were the candidates most suitable to confront the Badals.

His next set included sports minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi   for Ferozepur and public works minister Vijay Inder Singla.

It could now be a walk over for Badals.

Ghubaya had contested the last election on Akali Dal ticket  but fell out with Sukhbir. He recently joined the Congress. He is from Rai Sikh community that has sizeable votes in Ferozepur. Raja Warring is a former youth Congress president  and thus has access to Rahul.

The Badals had delayed announcement for these two seats waiting for the Congress choice. Harsimrat, of course, has been campaigning in Bathinda for several days now as her candidature  is just a formality.

At the political level, the Badals have been facing  tough time, especially in the Sikh religio-political domain, on account of the issues relating to sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 that includes police firing on Sikh protesters at Bahbal Kalan and Kotkapura. Parkash Singh Badal was the chief minister at that time with Sukhbir as the deputy chief minister.

Badals were instrumental in facilitating pardon from Akal Takht for the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim in blasphemy case. Badal had summoned the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and his associates to his official residence in Chandigarh to pressurise them to grant pardon to Dera chief who is now in jail in rape case. He faces several other cases too.

Sacrilege narrative is part of the dominant electoral discourse in the Sikh domain but with the  Congress having failed to field strong candidates, these issues  may not play decisive role in these two seats.

Bathinda is next to Bargari that is epicentre of sacrilege narrative. This is also the seat in which Dera Sacha Sauda has strong base.

Capt Amarinder Singh had made it clear  to Rahul that it was for him to impress upon Manpreet and Dr Navjot to agree to contest in case he was focussing on each and every seat.

Moreover, Bathinda and Ferozepur are not just two seats in case both Harsimrat and Sukhbir are the Akali Dal candidates.

Rahul Gandhi has now virtually offered these two seats on a platter to Akali Dal.

Jagtar Singh

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