Chandigarh: The Congress on Tuesday fielded former Railway Minister Pawan Bansal as its candidate from the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, who surpassed heavyweight leaders like former Union Minister Manish Tewari and Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife and former MLA, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, to emerge as the party’s choice.
Thanking the Congress for his candidature, Bansal reposed his faith in the party, claiming that BJP’s defeat this time was imminent. “The BJP in Chandigarh has failed on all accounts. No development happened in the last five years. In fact, the projects which were initiated by us, were also stalled. Crime has risen manifold. The people want a change now,” he said.
Strongly batting for a Metro rail service for the city, Bansal said that it was the need of the hour and blamed the outgoing MP Kirron Kher for failing to understand that. “It has to be seen in totality and the Metro can’t be seen in isolation.”
Commenting on Kaur and Tiwari’s candidature, Bansal maintained that all of them must leave behind their past differences and get together to work. However, a disappointed Navjot Kaur Sidhu said that she was deeply disheartened on being denied the ticket.
Kaur said that she went against all odds by applying for the ticket, considering how she felt a degree of animosity towards her from the people. “I just gave it a chance, but on ground, I saw that things were not that favourable. With me being an outsider, there was a bit of resistance from the locals,” she said.
Wishing Bansal luck in good spirit, Kaur added, “Our main motive is to defeat PM Modi and bring in the Congress… All this is immaterial.” Kaur’s name was previously doing the rounds for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, but with the Congress re-nominating sitting MP Gurjit Singh Aujla, her chances of contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections seem almost over.
“I never wanted to contest from Amritsar. I had categorically said no to it. Amritsar is a big constituency and with my husband busy with poll campaigning across the country, it would have been difficult for me here,” said the former Punjab minister.
Bansal, who was forced to quit his post during the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, secured the ticket for the eighth consecutive time despite losing the elections in 2014. He was recently appointed the chairman of the Congress Lok Sabha campaign committee for Chandigarh and had started campaigning even before there was any official word on his candidature.
The lawyer-turned-politician had to resign as Railways minister after allegations of graft were levelled against his nephew Vijay Singla, who was arrested in 2013 in the Rs 10-crore Railway bribery scam.
The 70-year-old has contested seven Lok Sabha elections from Chandigarh, winning four of them in 1991, 1999, 2004 and 2009.