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Punjab Polls: Turncoats from Ex-ally SAD, Ruling Congress Dominate BJP's First List

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the BJP press conference for the announcement of first list of 34 candidates for Punjab assembly elections. (Image: Twitter)

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the BJP press conference for the announcement of first list of 34 candidates for Punjab assembly elections. (Image: Twitter)

Among the leaders noticeably missing from the first list is BJP state president Ashwani Sharma.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s first list of candidates announced on Friday for the February 20 Punjab polls is dominated by leaders who have either switched over from its former ally the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or the state’s ruling Congress party.

The BJP is contesting around 65 seats in alliance with the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led SAD (Sanyukt). It announced its first list of 34 seats on Friday. Around a third of the candidates on the list had either left the Congress or SAD in the run-up to the elections.

Ferozepur City candidate Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, a minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh Cabinet, had joined the BJP last month. Similarly, Namisha Mehta, who has been fielded from Garhshankar, was in the race for a Congress ticket and jumped ship a few days ago.

Arvind Khanna, a former Congress MLA who had joined the BJP earlier this month, has been nominated from Sangrur, while Mohan Lal Banga, also an ex-Congress legislator, has been fielded from the Banga SC seat.

Former SAD leader Didar Singh Bhatti and erstwhile Youth Akali Dal leader Gurpreet Bhatti too have been fielded by the saffron party from Fatehgarh Sahib and Khanna, respectively.

Similarly, Talwandi Sabo candidate Ravipreet Singh Sidhu was a former treasurer and general secretary of the Akali Dal, while Sri Hargobindpur SC nominee Baljinder Singh Dakhoa had joined the BJP last year. Jalalabad nominee Puran Chand was a joint secretary of SAD.

Sucha Ram Laddar, an IAS office-turned-politician who recently floated a political outfit — Kirti Kisan Sher-e-Punjab Party — has been fielded from the Gill constituency. Kanwarveer Singh Tohra, grandson of former SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra, has been fielded from Amloh. Ashwani Sharma’s name was accommodated late on Friday from Pathankot.

Among the leaders noticeably missing from the first list is BJP state president Ashwani Sharma.

Party sources said that the decision to field a large number of turncoats was taken considering their winnability factor. But a section of the party was left disappointed by the first list, claiming that committed leaders were ignored over those who had switched loyalties from their respective parties.

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first published:January 22, 2022, 00:21 IST