Within 24 h of the INC announcing the first list of 86 candidates for the Punjab assembly election, the party is now struggling to contain rebellion, as one of its wannabes switched to the BJP while another jumped into the poll fray as an Independent.
Hectic parleys continued throughout the day to placate the rebels even as the Punjab Congress screening committee held discussions to finalise names for the remaining 31 seats for the 14 February election. The chief minister’s brother Manohar Singh, who has been denied the ticket from Bassi Pathana reserved segment, announced his candidature as an Independent. Channi is learnt to have supported his brother’s candidature.
The chief minister’s brother, who recently quit as a senior medical officer, accused sitting MLA Gurpreet Singh GP, PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu and a few others of conspiring against him.
Nimisha Mehta, whose candidature was supported by Channi from Garhshankar, joined the BJP today. Moga MLA Dr Harjot Kamal had switched to the BJP last evening. Spelling more trouble for the party, PPCC ex-chief Mohinder Kaypee warned of taking “harsh steps” if Adampur candidate Sukhwinder Kotli wasn’t replaced.
Kaypee is related to Channi and the CM is learnt to have batted for his candidature as well. There are reports that Kaypee too may join the BJP. Senior Dalit leader Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Channi, Sidhu and Congress state incharge Harish Chaudhary are learnt to met Kaypee at his residence to mollify him. Sources said Kaypee may replace Kotli from Adampur as the screening committee members are learnt to have reached a consensus on the matter.
In case of Bassi Pathana and Adampur, the allocation of ticket is being seen as the outcome of rivalry between Channi and Sidhu, though the party has been citing “winnability surveys” as the reason for selection of candidates. “With pressure building, the Congress could be forced to review ticket allocation in a few seats, especially in Doaba,” said a senior leader.
More so, the party is yet to announce the contentious seats of Bhoa, Phagwara, Banga, Jalalabad, Patiala (Urban) and Fazilka.