Once considered a Congress bastion, Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat has been experiencing change of guard every five years since 1998 when the BJP won here for the first time, with the support of SAD. The Congress’s free run was interrupted by the then Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Kanshi Ram in 1996 when he won this seat with SAD’s support, a political combination which was never tried again. The political landscape of the constituency, however, altered with the entrance of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the arena which polled around 2.13 lakh votes in 2014. Union minister of state for social empowerment Vijay Sampla is the sitting MP.
AAP has fielded Ravjot Singh, its Doaba zone in-charge, as its nominee this time. Party’s 2014 candidate Yamini Gomar has switched loyalties to the Congress and has applied for its ticket. Ravjot had contested the last assembly elections from Sham Churasi reserved constituency and had finished a close runner-up. He has been rewarded for standing behind the party high command when a flurry of MLAs and senior leaders revolted against it.
Sampla vs Som
Sampla is the front-runner for the BJP ticket but a strong lobby within the party is opposing his candidature on the ground that a strong anti-incumbency sentiment will work against him. When he was the state BJP president, he is alleged to have further polarised the party. Alliance partner SAD is also not very happy with him as he had not taken its leaders in confidence while distributing grants. His alleged arrogant ways alienated him even from some of his own trusted lieutenants.
His visibility in the constituency has increased only recently. Prior to his nomination from Hoshiarpur, Sampla had no link with Hoshiarpur but reservation of the seat for SC/ST class proved a boon for him and he toppled many potential candidates in the ticket race. His caste credentials also played a major role in getting him the ministerial berth. Yoga guru Ramdev had lobbied hard for his candidature in the previous elections and this time too, he is putting his weight behind him.
Some senior RSS leaders are also said to be in his favour.
Apart from Sampla, Phagwara MLA Som Parkash is also a serious contender for the BJP ticket. Parkash had fought the 2009 election from here and lost in a close contest. Som Parkash is considered close to state BJP chief Shwait Malik and SAD leadership. He also enjoys support of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley. He and Sampla are bitter political rivals, belonging to the two strong factions of the state BJP.
Sources said the party may consider a third option if it gets a potential vote puller. At one point of time, options of swapping this seat with SAD in lieu of Jalandhar were also being considered, but it is almost certain now that it will remain with the BJP. Currently, the saffron party has only one assembly segment (Phagwara) with it, of the nine falling in the Lok Sabha constituency, while SAD has none. The latter had last contested this seat on its symbol in 1985 when former SGPC member Kabal Singh had polled around 1.6 lakh votes.
Tug of war in Congress
After Kamal Chaudhary, who won three elections on its ticket from this constituency, the Congress has struggled to find a strong local candidate. In 1999, it brought in Charanjit Singh Channi from Nawanshahr but after his five-year tenure, when the party tied up with CPM and gave the seat to the latter, he left the party and contested on a BSP ticket. When the constituency was reorganised and reserved for SC/ST candidates in 2009, the Congress fielded Santosh Chowdhary, an ex-MP from Phillaur. She won the election, but in 2012, she was replaced with Jalandhar’s ex-MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee who lost to Sampla. Chowdhary, 75, has again applied for the ticket and has also got her daughter Namita apply so as to keep the seat within the family in case the party rejects her claim due to her age.
Former ministers Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Joginder Singh Mann, Balbir Rani Sodhi from Kapurthala, a retired engineer Mohan Lal Sood from Phagwara, Sham Churasi MLA Pawan Adia and Chabbewal MLA Raj Kumar have also applied for the ticket.
Names of the sitting MLAs, however, would be considered in tune with the party policy only. Gomar has her eyes on the gender quota and expects reward for quitting the AAP.
First Published: Feb 18, 2019 16:11 IST
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