Ever wondered why senior Congress leader and former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh wants to contest the upcoming Assembly election against incumbent CM Parkash Singh Badal? Why Congress has re-strategised in the state suddenly?
The answer lies in the allegations levelled by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, that the Congress and Akali Dal have a tacit understanding as both have been helping each other in the past.
Kejriwal in a recent tweet even accused Captain of getting his campaign funded by Bikramjit Singh Majithia who also happens to be his relative. The Captain, according to Kejriwal, had also saved Majithia from a CBI probe three years ago.
“Sir, Badals closed corruption cases against you just a few months before elections. Why? Punjab asking what’s the deal?” Kejriwal asked in a tweet. He even claimed that the SAD and Congress were contesting elections to benefit each other.
Though Captain Singh has denied the allegations, his decision to contest against Badal is the outcome of Kejriwal's allegations. The Congress wants to blunt AAP's allegation by fielding bigwigs like Captain Singh against the Badals.
Fighting against Badal will add weight to Captain's candidature
It is the first time that the Captain will be challenging the bastions of the senior Badal. While on one hand his decision will blunt AAP's rhetoric, he will also emerge as a stronger Congress leader. However, this is not the first time that the Captain would fight a heavyweight.
He had trounced the BJP by defeating Union minister Arun Jaitley by a margin of 1.65 lakh votes in 2014 from the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency.
Captain Singh has queered the pitch in Lambi by announcing that he will challenge the sitting Badal CM.
|Having engaged Captain Amarinder Singh in a tweet-war, Arvind Kejriwal called him a coward. (Photo: India Today)|
"I will tell the old man (Parkash Singh Badal) what politics is. I am a warrior and do not like to lose. I will be contesting the election from Lambi and Patiala," Singh said on Sunday.
Badal is not the only politician who has been challenged by Captain. He had also invited Kejriwal for a bout but the latter backed out.
Captain is a coward: Kejriwal
Having engaged the Captain in a tweet-war, Kejriwal called him a coward in case he contested the election from two Assembly seats. He had even advised the Captain to contest from Lambi and not from a safe seat like Patiala.
"Sir, are you contesting from two seats or from Lambi alone. People will call you a coward if you contested from two seats," Kejriwal tweeted.
Sources said the Congress has now changed its Punjab strategy. Close on the heels of AAP, the party also wants to field bigwigs against the Badals. The party earlier wanted to field Navjot Singh Sidhu from Jalalabad against Sukhbir Singh Badal and Ravneet Singh Bittu from Lambi. Since Sidhu declined, now Bittu can be pitted against Sukhbir.
Congress strategy is to field bigwigs against Badals
Akali Dal's old war horse Parkash will be facing a triangular contest from the Congress and AAP. While AAP has already fielded Jarnail Singh against him, the Captain is likely to be announced the party nominee from Lambi within a couple days.
The fight of the Congress and AAP will be to capture the anti-incumbency votes. As the battle will be fierce, votes will get divided between AAP and Congress, which may benefit the senior Badal who won four consecutive Assembly elections from Lambi constituency between 1997 and 2012. He had bagged 55.71 per cent of votes in 2012, and the Congress candidate had finished second by getting 35.44 per cent votes.
Lambi has been a Badal bastion and also one of the most favoured constituencies in Punjab. Badals are known to shower maximum funds in their own constituencies, besides other sops. Broadly speaking, winning an election from an Akali Dal stronghold will not be a cakewalk.
While the senior Badal will give a tough fight to AAP and Congress, both parties will feast mainly on anti-incumbency votes which will benefit Badal.
Reacting to the Captain's decision to contest against him, Badal has called it a "Rahul Gandhi ploy" to get rid of Captain Singh as the former does not like him. The Akali Dal believes that Captain Singh and Kejriwal will try to "play to the gallery with false bravado but the party is fine with their antics".
"We welcome Captain Amarinder Singh with open arms and would enjoy his presence. But I hope he goes back with his security intact," Badal said.
The Congress and AAP have queered the pitch in Punjab by announcing bigwigs against Badals. Besides the CM, deputy CM Sukhbir is facing Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann.
The Congress may soon announce a stronger candidate against Sukhbir and Bikramjit Singh Majithia.