Punjab elections: BJP releases first list of 34 candidates
New Delhi, Jan 21: The BJP on Friday released its first list of 34 candidates, including 13 Sikhs, nine Dalits and two women, for the election to the 117-member Punjab assembly.
Releasing the list, BJP general secretary Tarun Chugh said the party has given representation to all sections of society and the first list included 12 persons from farmer families, nine from Scheduled Castes, and some professionals. Of the total 34 candidates, nine are Dalits. Several of them belong to Other Backward Classes (OBCs), party leaders said.
The names include former minister Manoranjan Kalia, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, a sitting MLA who quit the Congress to join the party recently, Arvind Khanna and Kanwarveer Singh Tohra, the grandson of late Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Speaking on the occasion, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri slammed the Congress government in the state and said Punjab was the nation's pride but things have taken a turn for the worse there.
Assembly polls will be held in the state on February 20. The BJP is fighting the polls in alliance with former chief minister Amarinder Singh's Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa's SAD (Sanyukt). Sources in the BJP said the party has reached a broader agreement with its allies and will contest on 65 seats, while the Punjab Lok Congress and the SAD (Sanyukt) will get 34 and 18 seats respectively.
The BJP is also in talks to forge alliance with another regional party, the Lok Insaf Party, which has some influence in and around Ludhiana, sources said. In the last polls, the BJP had contested on 23 seats in alliance with the Shriomani Akali Dal and won only three seats. The party later lost the bypoll in one of the seats and has only two sitting MLAs now.
The BJP fielded both its sitting MLAs -- Dinesh Singh Babbu from Sujanpur and Arun Narang from Abohar. Former BJP MLA K D Bhandari will contest from Jalandhar North. Among the party old guards, former minister Manoranjan Kalia will contest from Jalandhar Central, Surjit Kumar Jyani from Fazilka and Tikshan Sood from Hoshiarpur.
Among the BJP candidates are four former Congress leaders, including Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, and four former Akali leaders. Sodhi, a former sports minister, will contest from Ferozepur City. Sodhi, who is considered close to former CM Amarinder Singh, is a sitting legislator from Guruharsahai in Ferozepur district. Two-time MLA and former Congress leader Arvind Khanna has been fielded from Sangrur seat.
Considered close to former CM Amarinder Singh, Khanna had quit the Congress in 2015. Former MLA Mohan Lal Banga, who recently joined the BJP after quitting the Congress, has been fielded from Banga seat. Former Congress leader Nimisha Mehta, who recently joined the BJP, will contest from Garhshankar seat.
Among the four former Akali leaders, former MLA Didar Singh Bhatti will fight the election from Fatehgarh Sahib seat and Ravipreet Sidhu from Talwandi Sabo seat. The BJP has fielded former Akali leader Puran Chand from Jalalabad, from where Sukhbir Singh Badal is the Shiromani Akali Dal nominee.
Former Aam Aadmi Party leader Gurpreet Singh Bhatti has been fielded from Khanna seat. Kanwarveer Singh Tohra has been fielded from Amloh seat. Former IAS officer S R Laddhar and former IPS officer Ashok Bath have been given tickets from Gill and Balachaur, respectively. PTI