The electoral battle at the high-profile Bathinda Lok Sabha seat in Punjab will turn out to be a Badal family affair as sitting SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal is facing her estranged brother-in-law Manpreet Singh Badal, who is the chief of the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), which has formed an alliance with the Congress after breaking up with the Sanjha Morcha.
Interestingly, Manpreet had campaigned for Harsimrat in the last Lok Sabha polls, but just before the 2012 Assembly elections, he parted ways with the SAD and formed the PPP. He also held the Finance portfolio in the SAD-BJP Government.
Sources said that out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress will fight from 11 seats and has allotted two seats to the Morcha -- Bathinda and Faridkot, where CPI’s Kashmir Singh will try his luck.
As the Congress had no strong candidate for Bathinda, represented by Harsimrat, who is also the wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, the chance went to Badal’s cousin and London-educated barrister Manpreet. According to an insider, Manpreet wanted to fight from Anandpur Sahib, which the Congress did not agree.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Harsimrat defeated Congress’ Raninder, who later lost even the Assembly polls from Patiala, the constituency of his mother -- External Affairs Minister Parneet Kaur.
Bathinda will probably have one more contestant -- Punjabi comedian Bhagwant Mann, who may shortly join the AAP. Sources said Mann’s closeness to Manpreet may result in him being fielded here by the AAP.
With the PPP’s split from the Morcha, which now has only the CPI, CPM and SAD(L), the disillusioned CPM has announced to contest four Lok Sabha seats alone.
In the recently-formed national-level Third Front, which has the CPI and CPM as members, Manpreet didn’t send any representative, adding to the speculation that he had finalised an alliance with the Congress.
Confirming that a recent meeting in Delhi attended by Congress’ state president Partap Singh Bajwa and in-charge Shakeel Ahmed had approved the alliance, a senior leader said a formal announcement on this will be made shortly.
Meanwhile, Sukhbir on Friday ridiculed the ‘severe political crisis’ in the Congress on the eve of Lok Sabha polls, saying it was seeking political aide from the already dead PPP. He called the Congress a ‘politically pauper’.