Speculation continues over Harsimrat Badal contesting from Bathinda

Chandigarh, March 13: With Bargari continuing to haunt Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, speculation persists over union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal contesting her third election from Bathinda.

Although the impact of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari followed by police firing at nearby Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan on Sikh protesters in 2015 under Akali rule is particularly high in the districts of Faridkot, Bathinda and Tarn Taran, it is an issue that has agitated the Sikhs all over the globe, not just in Punjab.

It is because of this reason that Sukhbir is learnt to have been weighing pros and cons of his wife being fielded from Bathinda again despite her claims to have done a lot for the constituency as union minister. Bathinda is also stronghold of Dera Sacha Sauda whose followers have been arrested  in the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. It is the support from this Dera for her that created the crisis relating to sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. This earlier support  has now turned into liability for the Akali Dal.

The option is Ferozpur that is considered to be safer than Badal bastion of Bathinda. The Badal family nurtured this seat after Faridkot was categorised as reserve by the election commission.

Sources maintain that Sukhbir sounded Sikander Singh Maluka for Bathinda in case Harsimrat is to be shifted to Ferozepur. However, he is learnt to have shown more interest in Sangrur. Maluka belongs to Rampura Phul that is part of the Bathinda district but this Assembly constituency is part of Faridkot Lok Sabha seat.

The problem in Akali Dal, however, is at another level. Many of the senior leaders are not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha poll. The reason is simple. In case NDA forms the government again at the cetre and Harsimrat wins for the third time, she can’t be replaced as representative of the Akali Dal in the union cabinet.

It may be recalled that after the 2014 elections, the BJP had offered two cabinet berths to the Akali Dal at the level of minister of state with independent charge but Badals did not agree. The family wanted Harsimrat to be inducted in the cabinet rank irrespective of the portfolio.

Akali Dal MLA and former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa too declined to contest from Sangrur.

Sukhbir has informally announced the candidature of Jagir Kaur from Khadoor Sahib and Prem Singh Chandumajra from Anandpur Sahib from where he is the sitting MP.

The Akali Dal is likely to finalise its candidates next week for 10 seats in its quota. Three seats are with its alliance partner BJP.

Ferozepur had elected Sher Singh Ghubaya in the last Lok Sabha election but he fell out with Sukhbir. He has now joined the Congress. He belongs to the Rai Sikh community that plays a decisive role in this seat. Sukhbir’s Jalalabad Assembly constituency is part of Ferozepur. But then Lambi, the Assembly constituency represented by 5-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is part of Bathinda Lok Sabha  seat.

The demographic composition of Ferozepur, however, is different from Bathinda.

The shifting of Harsimrat to Ferozepur would  provide all the ammunition to the Congress and other political formations in the fray as this would be interpreted as the party’s moral defeat. It definitely would be moral defeat but what is important is the victory.

In case Harsimrat is shifted to Ferozepur and manages to win, it would be considered as tactical retreat and the attack would be forgotten. Better to take the risk where the chances of victory are higher rather than tasting defeat.

Editor-in-Chief

Jagtar Singh

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