The final list of Congress candidates for the February 4 assembly polls in Punjab will be out by January 9, state party chief Amarinder Singh said. The party has so far declared candidates for 77 out of the total of 117 assembly seats. Amarinder dismissed criticism that the Congress was late in declaring the last list of the remaining 40 candidates.”Even the BJP has not declared any candidate so far…The last list of Congress candidates will be out by January 9,” he said.
Either Navjot Singh Sidhu or his wife Navjot Kaur would be fielded from the Amritsar (East) seat, he said. “Sidhu will be a star campaigner for the party.”
The ex-army captain also appeared unperturbed on reports that Akali Dal was contemplating fielding former army chief J J Singh against him from the Patiala seat. “It would be for the first time in the history of army that a captain defeats the general.”
Admitting that “dissidence” takes place every time candidates are declared by the party, he assured that those candidates who are left out and support the party nominee will be suitably accommodated after government formation in the state.
Asked about Congress leader Tarlochan Sondh turning rebel after denial of ticket, Amarinder said, “His name not featuring in the list is not a reflection on him. Senior leaders must stand by the decision of the party high command.” He asserted that the party would not climb down from its condition of giving one ticket per family and added that he had recommended “winnable” candidates to the high command.
“Around 28 leaders from Akal Dal, 11 from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and six from BJP have joined the Congress,” he said adding that every one of the new joinees could not be accommodated in allocation of seats.
The Congress chief also brushed aside AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal’s claims that Sidhu would become the Chief Minister in case Congress wins.
“Kejriwal is not a God…he cannot predict anything,” he said.
On the Supreme Court’s recent verdict to not mix politics with religion, he said the Congress is a secular party and the decision would affect the SAD the most.
“Akalis take people to Gurudwaras and ask them to pledge to give vote for their candidates,” he claimed.
Amarinder also challenged Kejriwal to an electoral fight in the upcoming assembly elections.
During the press conference, former Akali minister Ranjit Singh Balian and his family members, as well as number of AAP workers joined the Congress.
Tickets would be given to outsiders in constituencies where the Congress did not have strong candidates, Amarinder said. He also alleged that posters being put up against former Akali leader Inderbir Singh Bolaria and others in Delhi were the act of detractors.
He made it clear that there had been no discussion with him on the possibility of making Sidhu the deputy chief minister if the Congress comes to power in the state. On AAP’s Bhagwant Mann’s claim to the chief ministerial post, Amarinder wished him luck, saying if that happened the state would be reduced to having a comedian’s government.