Ex-BJP, Cong leaders, Sukhbir kin and OSD, lawyer in rape case against Bains get tickets

The SAD had last year quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws issue. When the SAD had an alliance with the BJP, it contested on 94 seats, while the saffron party fought on 23 seats.

The Shiromani Akali Dal Monday announced its candidates for 64 Assembly seats for the 2022 polls in Punjab, three days after the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) forced it to shelve its public outreach programme where party chief Sukhbir Badal had embarked on a 100-day campaign announcing constituency-wise nominees.

The list, which makes for nearly 54 per cent of the total 117 seats in Punjab and 66 per cent of the 97 that the SAD will contest in alliance with the BSP, has 17 new faces and eight MLAs. Sukhbir, who is one of the two Lok Sabha MPs from the party, will contest from Jalalabad, while his brother-in-law Adaish Partap Singh Kairon has been named as party candidate from Patti. Sukhbir’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Charanjit Singh Brar would contest from Rajpura. The list includes the names of 24 candidates already announced by the party during its ‘Punjab Mangda Jawab’ rallies this year the recent ‘Gall Punjab Di’ programme.

The SKM, which is spearheading now a nearly yearlong agitation against the three farm laws, on Friday had asked political parties in Punjab to wait for official announcement of poll dates by the Election Commission of India (ECI) before launching their campaign.

Facing protests from farmers, Sukhbit had first postponed the ‘Gall Punjab Di’ campaign for six days and subsequently shelved it indefinitely after Friday meeting with SKM. The move is being seen as an attempt to salvage its core constituency, the farmers, for which it had been promising freebies, including free power worth around Rs 6000 crore per year, aimed at wooing them in elections.

An insider said that Akali Dal’s move to declare candidates was aimed at party remaining in news at constituency level as the candidates would start their activities, reaching out to people or go on thanksgiving visits to religious institutions. “The party cannot remain to be in inertia ahead of polls,” he added.

“The SKM has been biased. It tried to stall SAD’s poll campaign, which is our democratic right. Now, when the candidates have been announced en masse, they (candidates) would make their presence felt in the constituency by kick-starting poll campaign,” said an Akali leader, expressing anguish that “Congress and AAP had been given a sort of largesse by farm unions to continue their programmes”.

The 17 fresh faces, who would be contesting on SAD ticket for the first time, include former BJP minister Anil Joshi who has been fielded from Amritsar North, the constituency he represented as saffron party legislator earlier, and Raj Kumar Gupta, also a former BJP leader from Sujanpura constituency. The fresh faces include former Congress leaders Jagmeet Singh Brar (Maur), Jagbir Singh Brar (Jalandhar Cantonment) and Hans Raj Josan (Fazilka).

The youngsters among the new faces include Youth Akali Dal secretary general Sarabjot Singh Sabi (Mukerian), Paramjit Singh Dhillon (Samrala), Gulzar Singh Gulzari (Dirba); and Dilbari Kulwant Kanta (Barnala).

Talbir Singh Gill will contest from Amritsar South.

Former ministers Tota Singh, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Daljit Singh Cheema and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon will contest from Dharamkot, Zira, Rupnagar, and Sahnewal, respectively.

Senior party leader Maheshinder Singh Grewal, who unsuccessfully contested the 2019 parliamentary polls from Ludhiana, has made a comeback to assembly elections after 15 years and has been declared candidate from Ludhiana West. Grewal had lost from Payal constituency in 2007. In 2012, Payal was categorized as reserve constituency and in 2017, Ludhiana West seat was with SAD’s former ally BJP.

From Samrala, Paramjeet Singh Dhillon has been named party candidate. A former Congress leader, 40-year old Dhillon had joined SAD in 2016 but did not contest 2017 polls. His grandfather is the brother of incumbent Samrala MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon of Congress.

Advocate Harish Rai Dhanda has been announced as candidate from Atam Nagar constituency of Ludhiana, replacing industrialist Gurmeet Singh Kular who contested for SAD from this seat in 2017 but lost to Lok Insaf Party’s Simarjeet Singh Bains. Dhanda is counsel for the woman who filed rape case against incumbent MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains. He represented the woman in court when FIR registration was ordered against Bains.

SAD has fielded SR Kler from Jagraon. Kler is a former bureaucrat who contested from Nihal Singh Wala of Moga in 2017 but lost.

With the announcement of candidates on Monday, SAD is to announce candidates on 33 constituencies, including Lambi, currently represented by Akali patriarch and nonagenarian Parkash Singh Badal and from where sources in Akali Dal say Sukhbir in addition to Jalalabad is also tipped to contest.

In June, the SAD had formed an alliance with the BSP for the 2022 elections.

The SAD had last year quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws issue. When the SAD had an alliance with the BJP, it contested on 94 seats, while the saffron party fought on 23 seats.

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