Many Punjab candidates have non-political shades

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : A cricketer-commentator-anchor, a bhangra pop and Sufi singer, a millionaire industrialist, a Bollywood actor, a former governor, an ex-lieutenant general… These are among the more colourful candidates who will battle to get into the Lok Sabha from Punjab.

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The state’s 13 Lok Sabha seats will see a direct contest between the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine and the Congress. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is also contesting all 13 seats, will add another dimension to the contest.

Leading the pack of candidates who are not professional politicians is the chirpy retired cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, now a TV personality too. The electorate in Amritsar will decide whether the BJP candidate deserves to go to the Lok Sabha again.

Facing him on this seat will be former Punjab governor and retired army officer (Lt. Gen.) B.K.N. Chhibber, who recently joined the BSP after quitting the Congress. The Congress has not named its Amritsar nominee.

In neighbouring Gurdaspur, Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna of the BJP will be in the fray for the fourth time. He won in 1998, 1999 and 2004.

Given Khanna’s prolonged absence from the constituency, many Congress leaders are in the fray for a party ticket as they hope to win easily. The former actor says his work in the area matters more than his absence.

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari will try his luck from Ludhiana. Pitted against him will be Congress dissident G.S. Ghalib, now with the Akali Dal.

Patiala will again see royalty take on a politician. Preneet Kaur, wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, will take on Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra.

Senior IAS officer Som Prakash opted for premature retirement to contest on the BJP ticket from Hoshiarpur, a reserved seat. He was head of Punjab’s urban development authority.

The name of millionaire industrialist Rana Gurjit Singh, the Jalandhar MP of the Congress, is making the rounds for the newly formed Khadoor Sahib constituency. The Jalandhar seat is no longer in the general category.

The Akali Dal has picked Bhangra-pop and Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans for Jalandhar. Since then, Hans has been singing paeans for Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

If the chief minister’s wife Surinder Kaur or daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur is fielded from Bathinda, the list of non-political candidates will include homemakers too.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])