Punjab polls: Cong wary of large number of rebels

As the date for withdrawing nomination for Punjab Assembly election nears, there is trepidation in Congress camp over large number of rebels.

New Delhi: As the date for withdrawing
nomination for Punjab Assembly election nears, there is
trepidation in Congress camp over large number of rebels in
the poll fray.

The rebels who could queer the pitch for Congress, which
is seeking to return to power in the state, include
Malwinder Singh, the brother of former Chief Minister and PCC
chief Captain Amarinder Singh.
Malvinder has since joined the opposition Akali Dal and
decided to campaign against the Congress. He is opposing the
party`s decision to give ticket to Amarinder`s son Raninder
Singh for the Samana assembly constituency in Patiala district
for which he was earlier a contender.

An AICC leader speaking on the condition of anonymity
here accepted that there were at least 40 rebels in the fray
against the official Congress candidates.

He said it could create really serious problems for the
party if they do not withdraw their candidatures by January
16, the last day for withdrawing nominations.

The Congress leader expressed confidence that if the
rebel factor was resolved, the party could stage a comeback in
the state due to the strong anti-incumbency factor.

Former minister Gurkanwal Kaur, daughter of assassinated
chief minister Beant Singh, has unfurled the banner of revolt,
opposing the nomination of Jagbir Singh Brar. Brar had quit
SAD to float the PPP along with Manpreet and recently joined
the Congress. Brar had defeated Gurkanwal in 2007 polls.
Former parliamentary secretary Hans Raj Josan has decided
to contest from the Jalalabad seat as an independent against
Akali Dal president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir
Singh Badal.

While some rebels like former Pathankot MLA Ashok Sharma
have threatened to contest as Independent, few are contesting
on tickets from PPP, a party spearheaded by Manpreet Badal,
the cousin of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

LA Baldev Singh from Malout, Sukhdev Singh Chahal, OSD to
CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, from Talwandi Saboo,
Amarjeet Sharma from Ramphura Phul, Punjab Mahila Congress
chief Malti Thapar from Dharamkot, Surinder Kaur from Bhadaur
and Parkash Singh Bhattai from Balluana have also expressed
their resentments in public over rejection of their claims by
the party.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Manish Tewari,
however, said,"people are fed up of Akali-BJP rule and are
looking forward to Congress for a change."

Asked about the demand from Punjab Congress for Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh to address election rallies there,
Tewari said there is not only a demand but an expectation that
the Prime Minister would find time to campaign in Punjab.