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Punjab Assembly Elections: At least 15 turncoats figure in BJP candidates’ list

 

Chandigarh: Aiming to improve its performance this election, the BJP in Punjab is counting on the turncoats as is evident from its both lists – 35 candidates declared last week and the remaining 30 late Thursday night which have over 15 such party hoppers.

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Punjab goes to the polls on February 20 while the last date of filing nominations of papers is February 1 and the last date of withdrawals is February 4. The votes would be counted on March 10.

It is the first time, the saffron party is fighting on maximum of 65 seats out of total 117 assembly constituencies in the state. Its junior partners – former two-time chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress would fight on 37 seats and Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD’s) splinter group Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) on 15.

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Main among the turncoats are the former minister in Congress government, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi fights from Ferozepur, Congress’ sitting legislator Fateh Jung Bajwa from Batala seat, while another MLA Harjot Kamal has been fielded from Moga and the Congress leader Arvind Khanna from Sangrur.

While the All India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF) former president Kuldeep Singh Kahlon has been named from the Dera Baba Nanak seat, the Congress spokesperson Nimisha Mehta has been given ticket from the Garhshankar seat.

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Likewise, the SAD leaders who have shifted sides and given tickets are Sarbjit Singh Makkar from Jalandhar Cantt, Darshan Singh Shivjot from Chamkaur Sahib, and Gurpreet Singh Shahpur from Nabha. Also, Jagdish Kumar Jagga, who left PLC and joined BJP has been fielded from Rajpura. He replaces BJP’s Sikh face Harjeet Singh Grewal. The AAP leader from Khanna, Gurpreet Bhatti has been fielded from Khanna and former Akali leader Didar Singh Bhatti from Fatehgarh Sahib by the BJP.

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Main among its own candidates are former Union minister Vijay Sampla (Phagwara), former minister Manoranjan Kalia (Jalandhar), state chief Ashwani Sharma (Pathankot), and National Commission for Minorities chairman and IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura (Ropar). The party, however, has denied tickets to some old-timers, including former minister Madan Mohan Mittal who was seeking the ticket for his son.

While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and SAD-BSP alliance have also declared all their respective 117 candidates, Congress has yet to announce its remaining eight candidates.

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It may be recalled that the BJP had got its worst vote share in 2017 elections in the past five assembly polls when it had an alliance with SAD; while SAD won 15 seats with 25.2% vote share, the BJP fought on 23 seats and got 5.4 % vote share; in 2012, SAD won 56 seats with 34.7 %, the BJP won 12 seats (7.18%) and formed government, in 2007 again, while SAD won 48 (37.09%), BJP won 19 (8.28%) and formed government, in 2002, while SAD won 41 (31.08%) and BJP won three seats (5.67%), in 1997, the SAD fielded 92, won 75 seats (37.64%), the BJP fielded 22 and won 18 seats with 8.33 vote share 8.33% and formed government.

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