CHANDIGARH: With the Election Commission declaring the bypoll to Gurdaspur Lok Sabha on October 11, lobbying for tickets has intensified in the Congress, BJP and the AAP. The parties are expected to declare their respective candidates next week. The Gurdaspur seat fell vacant after the death of cine star and BJP MP Vinod Khanna.
Harish Rai Chaudhary, co-in-charge of the ruling Congress’ state affairs, met legislators from Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts to assess the situation. While most MLAs want Punjab Congress president Sunil Kumar Jakhar to contest the by-election, they have given in writing an assurance to support the candidate decided by the party high command. The party is likely to announce its candidate by September 20. The last date for filing the nomination is September 22.
Candidates will be finalised after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi returns from the US and CM Captain Amarinder Singh from the UK. According to sources, Jakhar has asked Amarinder to give the party ticket to Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa as he was a Lok Sabha member from Gurdaspur from 2009 to 2014 before losing the seat to Khanna in 2014.
Sources said Bajwa wants the ticket for his wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa, who was an MLA from Qadian. However, many MLAs contest this, as Bajwa’s younger brother Fatehjang Singh Bajwa is an MLA from Qadian. How could three tickets be given to one family, they ask. “Anybody can ask for a ticket for himself and his family members. But we want Sunil Jakhar to be given the ticket. He should fight elections from Gurdaspur,” said Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rural Development Minister and MLA from Fategarh Churian.
Meanwhile, the name of Kavita Khanna, wife of Vinod Khanna, is doing the rounds as she has an advantage of being his widow. Another strong contender is Swaran Salaria, a businessman in Mumbai. He had tried last time too, but Khanna was preferred. Salaria, who was in-charge of Gurdaspur parliamentary elections twice, and of Assembly elections as well, is well-versed with the party’s organisational structure.
Other names being discussed are Dinesh Babu (three-time MLA from Sujanpur), Ashwani Sharma (former state unit president) and Jagdish Sahani (former Chief Parliamentary Secretary). BJP is contesting this seat and not its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), according to their pact. “We have completed two rounds of mass contact programmes and are geared up for the election,’’ said Vineet Joshi, secretary, Punjab BJP.
AAP has sent the names of Major General (Retd) Suresh Khajuria and Lakhmeer Singh to national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for the seat. The state unit was firm that this time, they will select the candidate and not the party brass. Lakhmeer was overall in-charge of the parliamentary constituency in 2014 when Sucha Singh Chhotepur fought the General Elections. Both Khajuria as well as Lakhmeer are from Pathankot and have been associated with the party since 2012. Sources said all 20 AAP MLAs have backed both the names.