M A I N   N E W S

Pargat Singh, Rana Gurjit contenders for
Cong ticket
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 1
After Mr Balbir Singh “opting out” of the poll race, the race to get the Congress ticket has suddenly hotted up among Congress leaders and aspirants to the ticket. The situation about the Jalandhar parliamentary constituency is still fluid as far as the decision of the Congress about the party candidate is concerned.

The fight has virtually been confined among a number of aspirants belonging to the Congress “old guard” and fresh faces. A section of the party leaders was projecting Olympian Pargat Singh on the one hand and Rana Gurjit Singh, Congress MLA from Kapurthala, veteran Congress leader Umrao Singh, a former Rajya Sabha MP and the AICC secretary, Mr Iqbal Singh, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee secretary, Mr Anil Dutta, on the other, pointed out party sources.

The ongoing tussle among Congress leaders about the party ticket becomes crucial as party sources maintained that Dr Manmohan Singh had “still not taken” a final decision. He could also “rethink” on his earlier decision to seek election from Jalandhar after two or three days as he was still recuperating after being briefly unwell.

Mr Balbir Singh, MP, had written on Saturday to the AICC chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, that he was not seeking the party ticket again in protest against “malicious propaganda and a character assassination campaign against him launched by a section of the local party leaders.” The party sources, however, maintained that Mr Balbir Singh had opted out of the race only after “having received a negative indication” from the party high command during its ongoing screening process.

Though Mr Pargat Singh said he had not been contacted by anybody so far, sources close to him said he was being considered the “numero uno” on account of his being of a renowned sports personality and his family background.

“I will give a tough fight to my opponent in case the party ticket is given to me. I will make an all-out effort to beat Mr Naresh candidate,” said Rana Gurjit Singh, another strong contender for the Congress ticket. He, however, is facing a dilemma in view of the Chief Minister’s reported statement that MLAs may not be considered for the party ticket for the ensuing poll.

Meanwhile, Mr Umrao Singh who had given a tough fight to Mr Inder Kumar Gujral in 1998 as the Congress candidate, maintained that he was not averse to the idea of being a party candidate from Jalandhar once again. “I am keen on it,” said Mr Umrao Singh, former minister.

While Mr Iqbal Singh secretary of the AICC and former MP, was not available, the party sources maintained that he was also vying for the party ticket from either Hoshiarpur or Jalandhar. It was learnt that Mr Anil Dutta, secretary of the PPCC who is said to be close to the Punjab Chief Minister, was also in New Delhi to seek the party ticket on account of being a “taksali” Congressman for more than 20 years and for being a Hindu candidate.

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