Punjab: High octane contest on cards

The new entrant Aam Aadmi Party is adding a third dimension to the contest which has been dominated by Congress and Akali Dal-BJP alliance so far.

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Chandigarh, Jan 22: With battle lines drawn for the February 4 polls to Punjab Assembly, a high-octane battle of ballot is on the cards especially in some of the constituencies where the heavyweights of the three main parties are contesting.

The new entrant Aam Aadmi Party is adding a third dimension to the contest which has been dominated by Congress and Akali Dal-BJP alliance so far. All eyes will be riveted on the high-profile constituencies of Lambi, Jalalabad, Amritsar east, Lehragagga, Patiala and Batala seats as elections will be held for the 117-member Assembly.

Punjab: High octane contest on cards

Lambi, a pocket borough of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, is set to witness a keen battle with Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh challenging the Akali patriarch and AAP's Jarnail Singh making in roads into traditional votes of Shiromani Akali Dal. Besides, deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal is locked in a fierce battle in Jalalabad against AAP's Bhagwant Mann and Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.

At Lehragagga, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is seeking re-election and burning mid night oil to oppose SAD's heavyweight leader and finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who has changed his seat from Sunam in this polls. Former soldiers Captain (retd) Amarinder Singh of Congress and Gen (retd) J J Singh of SAD are fighting it out from Patiala urban seat, a traditional bastion of Congress.

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is a key man to watch from Amritsar east as he is in fray on Congress ticket, while AAP's Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi is battling it out from Batala. A total of 1,146 candidates are in the fray for Punjab Assembly polls which is set to witness three-cornered contest between SAD-BJP, Congress and new entrant AAP.

Other political outfits in the fray include BSP, former AAP leader Sucha Singh Chottepur-led Apna Punjab Party, the Left comprising CPI and CPI(M), and SAD-Amritsar. The Assembly election in Punjab is also considered a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity post demonetisation.

SAD has fielded candidates in 94 seats while its ally BJP has nominated candidates in remaining 23 seats. Congress is contesting alone on all seats. AAP, which is contesting Punjab polls for first time, has fielded its candidates in 112 seats, while its ally Lok Insaf Party, led by Ludhiana-based Bains brothers, have fielded its nominees in five seats.

Punjab was the only state which gave AAP its four MPs in the 2014 parliamentary election. Just like AAP's performance in 2014, its fortunes in the state remain unpredictable. Just a year ago, AAP seemed unbeatable, but now appears to be on a sticky wicket, political observers said. More than the opposition, the party suffered due to blows from within.

Most of the prominent faces it fielded in 2014 or those who joined it then have either been kicked out or pushed to fringe. Allegations of corruption in ticket allocation, infighting and stings by party activists on each other are some of the hurdles AAP faces. The assembly polls are crucial for Congress' revival.

PTI

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