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How Punjab poll has got politicians scurrying for power

Vipin Pubby
Vipin PubbyJan 15, 2017 | 19:17

How Punjab poll has got politicians scurrying for power

If Haryana had given the country the epithet "Aya Ram, Gaya Ram", neighbouring Punjab is currently witnessing a plethora of senior political leaders, including MPs and MLAs, unabashedly crisscrossing across the major parties contending for power in the state.

It is for the first time that there is a multi-directional movement of political leaders in the state which is also set for its first credible three-cornered contest.

Political observers are finding it difficult to keep a tab on the leaders moving from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the Congress or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and even BJP leaders moving over to AAP or Congress and vice-versa. Some party-hoppers have tested waters in all the major parties and a couple of them have switched parties even within a couple of days of joining a particular party.

A typical example is that of former three-time Congress MLA and former deputy Speaker Darbari Lal. He quit the party in 2014 to join the BJP. Feeling "ignored" in that party, he recently joined the AAP which declared him its candidate from the Amritsar Central constituency to contest the Assembly elections.

However, within a couple of days of the announcement, he stunned the AAP by jumping back to the Congress and is now its candidate. A sheepish AAP has now claimed that he was being "denied" the ticket because of corruption charges against him and hence may have switched over to the Congress.

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The Bains brothers, both independent MLAs, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains, have formed their own party and are now aligned with AAP. 

Again in Amritsar, AAP's Lok Sabha candidate Dr Daljit Singh, who had garnered a handsome 80,000 votes against Amarinder Singh and Arun Jaitley in the field, has left the party to join the Congress. Amarinder, the state party chief, himself welcomed him into the party even though it is not clear whether he would contest the ensuing elections.

At least six sitting MLAs and a Rajya Sabha member have quit their parties to join others in the last one month. Although the movement is in all directions, the maximum is towards the Congress, as nearly 40 prominent Akali and AAP leaders have joined it in recent weeks.

On the other hand, at least 20 senior Congress leaders have called it quits and joined other parties. These include Gurkanwal Kaur, daughter of slain chief minister Beant Singh, who left the Congress to join the BJP.

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu quit the BJP to first try his luck with the AAP. After hobnobbing with the party for nearly a month and unsuccessfully seeking to be its CM candidate in the state, he floated his own front.

After much dilly-dallying, he has now joined the Congress even as his wife, a former BJP MLA, formally joined the Congress. It was believed that he was looking at an "auspicious" time to formally join the party and was indecisive on contesting the election or just being a star campaigner. His namesake wife Navjot Kaur had earlier resigned from BJP and joined the Congress.

Five SAD MLAs, including former jails minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Pargat Singh, Rajwinder Kaur and Mahesh Inder Singh Nihalsinghwala, who were denied party tickets, joined the Congress over the last one month.

The Bains brothers, both independent MLAs, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains, have formed their own party and are now aligned with AAP.

Satpal Gosain of BJP, a former health minister and Speaker, is the latest to join the Congress. He was denied the BJP ticket from the Ludhiana Central constituency.

The trend started with Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged cousin of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. He had floated People's Party of Punjab (PPP) which had contested the previous election.

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Yamini Gomar has joined the Congress.

Though the party could not win even a single seat, it was able to bag a critical 5 per cent votes. Last year he joined the Congress and was given the responsibility of framing the party's manifesto.

Subsequently, some Congress leaders joined the AAP. These included firebrand former MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira. Another senior party leader Jagmeet Singh Brar, a former MP, was expelled from the party and is now heading the state unit of Trinamool Congress. Col CD Singh Kamboj, Giri Raj Rajaura, Aman Arora and many others also left the Congress for other parties.

Then there are others who have switched parties more than once. Singer-turned-politician Hans Raj Hans did it twice. He unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections as a SAD candidate and had joined Congress last year. After denial of a Rajya Sabha nomination by the Congress, he has now joined the BJP.

AAP too has seen several desertions. Two of its four MPs rebelled against party supremo Arvind Kejriwal and were suspended about two years ago. They have not quit. However, the party's state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who was removed from the party after charges of alleged corruption, has formed his own party, Apna Punjab Party (APP) and has set up candidates from several constituencies.

Yamini Gomar, a former member of AAP national executive who unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha polls from Hoshiarpur and polled over 2 lakh votes, quit the party after she was denied the ticket for Assembly elections from Sham Churasi constituency. She has joined the Congress.

SAD too has attracted two senior Congress leaders, including a former MLA Surinder Singh Sibia. The SAD had earlier prompted two Congress MLAs to resign and seek re-election as its candidates. Both had returned to the Assembly as SAD MLAs.

Last updated: January 15, 2017 | 19:17
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