Chandigarh: As Punjab goes to polls in the seventh and final round of the Lok Sabha elections on Sunday, 278 candidates are in fray for 13 parliamentary seats. The Congress, the SAD-BJP alliance and the AAP are confident of winning all 13 seats. However, with the emergence of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA), the contest has become a four-cornered one, albeit on a few seats, even as the primary battle remains between the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine. Political pundits believe that no single party in the state is in a position of making a clean sweep and also there is no wave in support of any particular party.
Here is a look at the hotly-contested seats in the state:
Bathinda happens to be a hot seat as Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the SAD-BJP nominee from here. Interestingly, this current MP is facing a challenge from 3 sitting MLAs. Amarinder ‘Raja’ Warring of the Congress, Baljinder Kaur of the AAP and Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the PDA are taking on Harsimrat Kaur Badal in her stronghold.
Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the former Leader of Opposition, had floated his Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) after he parted ways from the AAP. The PEP is a part of the PDA.
While Harsimrat faces a tough competition in Bathinda, so does her husband and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, in the Akali stronghold of Ferozepur. The seat has been an SAD bastion with the party candidate representing it for the past 25 years. However, just before the announcement of the general polls, sitting MP Sher Singh Gubaya shifted loyalties to the Congress.
The Congress has fielded Gubaya against the SAD chief in the Akali stronghold.
The AAP state president and sitting MP, Bhagwant Mann has been re-nominated by the party from Sangrur. He is pitted against Kewal Singh Dhillon, the richest candidate of the Congress and former state finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the SAD. The outcome of the seat will have a bearing on the prospects of Mann as well as the AAP in the state. Dhindsa is the son of former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who had resigned as SAD’s secretary general and from its core committee last year. Although he cited his worsening health as the reason for his resignation, reports pointed to his differences with Sukhbir Singh Badal. Dhindsa senior had even abstained from canvassing for his son but had on May 8 made a public appearance in Delhi and appealed voters to vote in favour of PM Modi and the NDA.
Until actor Sunny Deol was announced as the BJP candidate, it was a mundane affair in Gurdaspur. His candidature spiked up the poll mood in the constituency, currently represented by the Congress which has re-nominated the sitting MP and state party president Sunil Jakhar. Late Vinod Khanna was the MP from Gurdaspur for four terms barring 2009. After Khanna’s demise in April 2017, Jakhar wrested Gurdaspur from the BJP in the ensuing bypoll.
Former union minister and wife of chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, Preneet Kaur, is the Congress candidate from Patiala. She is pitted against sitting MP Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi who is contesting as a PDA candidate this time. In 2014, Gandhi had defeated incumbent Kaur on the AAP ticket. Notably, Singh couldn’t concentrate on Patiala in 2014 as he was himself fighting the Lok Sabha election against Arun Jaitley from Amritsar. However, this time around the chief minister has been on a campaigning spree in Patiala.