M A I N   N E W S

Rebels to give candidates tough time
Battlelines drawn n Nearly 50% candidates withdraw nominations n 1080 in fray
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Cong has maximum rebels

n The Congress initially had 40 rebels, but it has managed to bring the number down to seven.
n SAD has expelled a number of rebels, leaving only four or five to challenge the official nominees.
n The BJP saw a lot of bickerings initially, but the party has been able to curtail dissidence and now the party has no open rebellion.

Chandigarh, January 16
The battlelines for the January 30 Punjab elections were drawn today with 974 candidates, nearly half of the 2,054 who had filed their nominations, withdrawing from the contest. In all, 1,080 candidates will try their luck in the poll. Most of the 117 Assembly segments will see a multi-corner contest, with many rebels giving official nominees of the party a tough contest.

The Congress has the largest number of rebels in the fray despite efforts by Central leaders to persuade them to withdraw. The Congress has been able to reduce drastically the number of rebels from over 40 to seven.

SAD has expelled a number of rebels, leaving only four -five to challenge the official nominees. SAD alliance partner BJP saw a lot of bickerings initially, but it has managed to control dissidence. At least there is no open rebellion.

The Congress was able to persuade Naresh Puri (Sujanpur), Charanjit Channi (Nawanshahr) and Gurbrinder Atwal (Nakodar) to withdraw their nomination in favour of the official candidates. However, Congress rebels who remain in the fray include Parkash Bhatti (Baluana), Upinder Sharma (Kotkapura), Ashok Sharma (Pathankot), Deepinder Dhillon (Dera Bassi), Vijay Saathi (Moga), Inderjit Singh Kafabad (Sahnewal) and Ravinder Singh Babbal (Ferozepur).

The official SAD nominees will be facing rebels Didar Singh Bhatti (Fatehgarh Sahib), Mohinder Singh Hussainpura (Nawanshahr), Barinder Singh Tikka (Amritsar), two Bains brothers Balwinder and Simarjit in Ludhiana and Manpreet Kaur Dolly (daughter of Captain Kanwaljit Singh) at Dera Bassi. Dera Bassi will have rebels contesting against both the Congress and SAD nominees.

In Kot Kapura, former minister Upinder Sharma was persuaded by Jagmeet Brar and Oscar Fernendez, but he declined to succumb to party pressure. Ripjit Singh Brar, brother of Jagmeet Brar, is contesting from Kot Kapura. Ripjit is the sitting Congress MLA.

The Malwa region that has 68 constituencies will see a tough contest between the SAD and the Congress with big leaders from both parties considering it to be their bastion. Doaba has 25 constituencies, while Majha has 24 assembly segments. The number of seat in Malwa has gone up by three from 65 in the 2007 poll, while in Majha these have been reduced by three from 27.

Despite the Dera factor, Malwa is not a cakewalk for the Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi in the Bathinda (Urban) assembly constituency where a rebel fielded by supporters of a former minister Surinder Singla is posing him a tough challenge.

Jassi is a sitting MLA of the segment. Supporters of Singla, who had desperately been trying to get Congress ticket either from Bathinda or Mansa, have fielded Harmesh Roshi as an independent candidate against Jassi. Roshi is vice-president of the Bathinda rural unit of the party and was being backed by Tehal Singh Sandhu, the PPCC secretary and the right hand man of Singla.

Dera Sacha Sauda that has considerable influence in the area is yet to announce support to Jassi whose daughter is married to the son of the dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Initially. Jassi is believed to have a smooth sailing.

Congress dissidents at Khanna, Sahnewal and Jagraon segments will give the official nominees a tough time. Even in Ludhiana Central a Congress Councillor Ashok Bagga has filed his nomination against the Congress nominee Surinder Dawar.

(with inputs from SP Sharma, Balwant Garg and Minna Zutshi)





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