Like Gangs of Wasseypur kept fighting between themselves to grab power, the same is the case with political parties in Punjab. After the tickets have been denied to some prominent faces, they have decided to fight as independents. The rebels are from all the heavy-weights in Punjab, be it Congress or Shiromani Akali Dal or Aam Aadmi Party. But my focus (and many Punjabis will side me on this) is on the Congress, which is facing threat directly from 19 rebels. The issue of factionalism is even more important to be resolved as this was the second reason behind Congress’ defeat in 2012 State Assembly Elections, the first one being Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) that took up the anti-incumbency vote-share. 15 rebels from Congress cut into its vote-share, thereby helping Akali Dal to win.
The number of rebels from these parties includes 19 from Congress, 5 from Akali Dal and 1 from AAP. All these rebels have decided to fight independently. One can imagine how badly these rebels can spoil the prospect of Congress coming to power in Punjab. Apart from these 19 independents, 5 rebels are fighting on tickets of other parties, prominent being Apna Punjab Party (APP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC).
- The infighting increased, after about a dozen candidates from Akali Dal joined Congress.
- Amarinder Singh’s “One Family, One Ticket” formula.
- Been out of power for nearly 10 years and having a bright chance of making a comeback, many candidates wish to win in the anti-incumbency wave.
Initially, the number of rebels was 30, but Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) was able to convince 11 and bring the number down to 19. Some of the prominent names include:
- The Congress heaved a sigh of relief as the Barnala family agreed to beat retreat. Harpeet Kaur Barnala, wife of Gaganjit Singh Barnala, withdrew her nomination as an Independent from the Dhuri She had filed her papers after Congress refused to give the seat to the Barnala family in favour of youth candidate Dalvir Singh Goldy.
- Rumal Chand from Bhoa
- Satinder Singh Chhajjalwaddi from Baba Bakala
- Gurpreet Kaur Gagowal and Gurpreet Vicky from Mansa
- Balwinder Singh Bittu from Amritsar (South)
- Mohinder Rinwa from Fazilka
- Gurmail Singh Pahelwan from Ludhiana (East)
Amarinder Singh promised the rebels to award them with chairman or president posts in various government trusts and organisations if Congress comes to power. He also thanked those who had heeded the party leadership’s request to withdraw their papers before the last day of filing nominations, saying it was now the party’s responsibility to take care of their interests. He said he would personally ensure that they are not let down on this count and are accommodated in key positions to take the Congress agenda of governance and development forward after the formation of its government in the state. Yet, it hasn’t yielded any effect on these 19 rebels.
- Surinder Mahey, former Jalandhar Mayor who is fighting against Sushil Rinku from Jalandhar (West)
- Gurbinder Singh Atwal, who is fighting against Jagbir Brar from Nakodar
- Hemraj Aggarwal, who is fighting against Rakesh Pandey from Ludhiana (North)
- Ashok Sharma, who is fighting against Amit Vij from Pathankot Sharma, who contested as an Independent in 2012, had polled more than 20,000 votes.
- Nimisha Mehta, a strong contender from Garhshankar and a protégé of CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi, is in fray against party nominee Luv Kumar Goldy.
- Naresh Puri, who is fighting against Amit Manto from Sujanpur constituency. He had also contested election as an independent candidate in 2012 and secured 27,000 votes.
- Tarlochan Singh Soond, who is fighting against Satnam Kainth from Banga He came into limelight after he hurled a shoe at Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
- Balwinder Singh Chaudhary, who is fighting against Rajkumar from Chabbewal constituency.
- Babbu Ghuman, who is fighting against Arun Dogra from Dasuya
- Jagmeet Singh Sahota, who is fighting against Kaka Randeep from Amloh
- Maninder Singh Palasaur, who is fighting against Inderbir Singh Bolaria from Amritsar (South)
- Sukhraj Singh Natt, is in the fray from Maur Mandi constituency, where he is contesting against Congress nominee Harminder Singh Jassi, who is relative of Sirsa-based religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
- Paramjit Kaur, who is fighting against Joginder Panjgrayi from Bhadaur
- Congress Zila Parishad member from Talwara, Paramjit Singh, will be contesting against party nominee and MLA Rajnish Babbi from Mukerian
- Rajinder Deepa, who is fighting against Daman Thind Bajwa from Sunam
- Sham Singh Makror, who is fighting against Rajinder Bhattal from Lehragaga
- Darshan Singh Sidhu, a former tehsildar, who is fighting against Ajaib Singh from Dirba
- Manjeet Singh Mann, who is fighting against Harjot from Moga constituency.
- Amarjeet Singh Gharu, who is fighting against Satkar Kaur from Ferozepur (Rural)
Urging the rebels to opt out in favour of the Congress nominees and put up a united front to defeat the “anti-people” SAD and AAP, Amarinder said the interests of Punjab and its people were supreme and could not be allowed to be compromised for personal gains. Hitting out at the rebels who refused to heed the party leadership’s request for withdrawal of nomination, despite the promise that they would be accommodated once the Congress forms government in the state, he said it amounted to violation of the party’s disciplinary ethics, which could not be permitted at any cost. Ruling out any “ghar wapsi” (homecoming) for them, Amarinder said he would ensure the trend of forgiveness is brought to an end.
Even after Capt. Amarinder Singh’s stern warning that disciplinary action will be taken against them, the rebels didn’t take back their nomination on the day of withdrawal. The party even suspended 7 of them to send a message, but this has not deterred their confidence to back-out.
Whether they will win or not, these rebels may spoil chances of Congress coming to power, repeating the scenario of 2012.