Chandigarh – The bye election for Shahkot Vidhan Sabha constituency, which has been necessitated for the death of five-time MLA and former Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar, will take place on May 28. With the announcement of bye election, the Model Code of Conduct is enforced in Jalandhar district with immediate effect.As per the schedule given by the Election commission of India, the notification for the same will be issued on May 3 and the last date of submission of nomination papers will be May 10. The scrutiny of papers is scheduled for on May 11 and the last for the withdrawal of the nomination papers has been kept for May 14. As the polling will take place on May 28, the counting of votes and result is scheduled to be declared on May 31.
A government spokesperson said with the announcement of bye election for Shahkot Vidhan Sabha constituency model code of conduct is enforced in Jalandhar district with immediate effect. Kohar, 78, had died of cardiac arrest on February 4 and the seat was lying vacant since that day. Constitutionally, elections need to be held within six months of a vacancy.
The announcement of poll schedule made the political camp abuzz. While the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has already named Naib Singh Kohar, son of late Ajit Singh Kohar, as its candidate, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi party (AAP) are yet to decide their candidates. In the Vidhan Sabha elections held last year, SAD candidate Ajit Singh Kohar had won the seat bagging 46,913 votes against his nearest rival Hardev Singh Laddi of the Congress, who could secure 42,008 votes. The AAP candidate Amarjit Singh Mehat pur stood second runner up in the contest with 41,010 votes coming in his kitty.
Now with the announcement of bye elections, the ruling Congress party is reportedly facing the problem of plenty as going by the past traditions of such seats getting into the ruling party’s kitty, there are many leaders in the race for ticket. Though the party insiders find it the rightful claim of Laddi, the names of senior party leaders including the former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Punjab Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh are also doing the rounds. Though there is no ministerial berth left in the state Cabinet, the veteran leaders are still not in a mood to lose hope and hang up their boots as they have vast experience of the fact that the seats can fall vacant anytime.
Having lost the previous elections from Lehra assembly seat to former SAD minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa with a margin of about 27,000 votes, Bhattal wants herself to get treated as the PPCC president Sunil Kumar Jakhar. Jakhar had also lost his three-time won Abohar seat in 2017 but the party high command fielded him again in Lok Sabha bye elections from Gurdaspur in October 2017, which had been necessitated for the death of sitting BJP MP Vinod Khanna. With party coming into power in the state after a decade that too with a thumping majority of 77 seats, Jakhar also regained his lost prestige by beating his nearest BJP rival Swaran Salaria with a huge margin of 1,93,219 votes, while Aam Aadmi Party candidate Major General (retd) Suresh Khajuria finished a distant third. Foreseeing the fortune smiling on her too, Bhattal has reportedly desired to get the ticket as she is otherwise finding herself a ‘left out’ leader of the party.
Lal Singh, whose ticket claim was rejected in 2017 for the party’s one family one ticket’ principle, is also finding it an opportunity to mark his comeback in active politics, which the former minister is missing on the seat of Punjab Mandi Board chairman. However, it is learnt that the chief minister Amarinder Singh as well as the PPCC president Sunil Jakhar both are otherwise willing to field Hardev Singh Laddi for the bye polls. The decision on the name is likely to come only after the party leaders’ meeting with AICC president Rahul Gandhi on April 30, a day after the party’s Jan Akrosh rally in Delhi.
The AAP is reportedly in the crisis for its previous candidate Amarjit Singh Mehatpur having already switched his loyalties to the Shiromani Akali Dal. Facing the party’s poor performance in 2017 polls, followed by Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bye elections, the AAP leadership of the state is yet in dilemma to either contest or not. One faction is of the strong viewpoint that the party needs to contest each and every election ensuing in the state as it was necessitated to keep the cadre active on the other parallel, one group wants the party to first streamline the things than going to battlefield. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the AAP had managed to garner seats only from the Malwa area and the performance in the Majha and Doaba regions was not up to the mark. Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Khaira’s seat from Bholath in Kapurthala district and Jai Kishan Singh Rodi from Garhshankar were the only saving grace for the AAP in Doaba.
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