In Punjab, it's all in the family
Son, son-in-law, kin galore in State Congress' list for coming Assembly elections
From State Congress president Amarinder Singh's son to the son-in-law of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, to relatives of sitting MPs and former Chief Ministers, the party's list for elections to the 117-member Punjab Assembly is sprinkled generously with members of political families.
In SAD too
That's been the tradition in the State, not just in the Congress but also in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), says a long-time political observer, as elections are not just expensive for most ‘aam' aspirants, but it is easier for those with a foothold to lobby for relatives.
So Captain Amarinder Singh and his son, Raninder Singh, are both contesting from Patiala district — from the Patiala and Samana seats respectively.
Captain Amarinder Singh's wife Preneet Kaur, who is the Minister of State for External affairs, is an MP from Patiala.
Ms. Bhattal is the candidate from Lehra in Sangrur district. Her son-in-law Vikram Singh Bajwa is contesting from Sahnewal in Ludhiana district.
Indeed, a quick look at the list reveals that about 19 per cent of the Congress candidates are either from political families or are related to each other.
Even a recent entrant from the SAD, Jagbir Singh Brar, who came via the recently floated Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP), is a cousin of Manpreet Badal, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal's “rebel” nephew. He is the candidate from the Jalandhar Cantt. seat.
Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, who has been in the Congress for many years, has been fielded from the crucial Lambi seat in Muktsar district against his two cousins and brothers Gurdas Badal and Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal. Mr. Gurdas Badal is Ms. Manpreet Badal's father and the PPP candidate.
Asked why political families continue to maintain their stranglehold in the State, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, said: “If three or four people are related to each other that is not important. What is important is the winnability quotient: no party is as foolish as to field candidates who will lose. We don't have suicidal tendencies.”
Evidently, the process of “democratising” the Congress – which heir apparent and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been working on – will take a while, yet.
So, of the Congress' eight MPs, five have managed to get the ticket for their relatives.
Apart from Ms. Preneet Kaur's son, Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa's wife Charanjeet Kaur Bajwa has been given Gurdaspur district's Qadian seat. Jalandhar MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee's wife Suman Kaypee is the contestant from Jalandhar West, while Hoshiarpur MP Santosh Chaudhury's husband Ram Lubhaya is taking the plunge from Hoshiarpur district's Sham Chaurasi — he lost in 2007.
And finally, Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Singh Bittu's cousin Gurkirat Singh Kotli is contesting from Ludhiana district's Khanna seat.
As ex-Chief Minister Beant Singh's grandson and ex-Minister Tej Prakash Singh's son, Mr. Kotli's impeccable political pedigree has ensured that a case of molestation filed against him by a French woman in Chandigarh in 1992 has not come in the way of his being granted a ticket.
Besides, Mr. Tej Prakash Singh has sacrificed his seat for his son. Another relative of Mr. Bittu, Ajit Inder Mofar, a sitting MLA, is contesting from Mansa district's Sardulgarh seat.
Arvind Khanna, who has been fielded from Sangrur district's Dhuri seat, is related closely to both Captain Amarinder Singh and the former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh.
The name of Mr. Khanna, who was charge sheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a Delhi court in a foreign exchange scandal earlier this year, had surfaced in Iraq's oil-for-food scam that led to Mr. Natwar Singh's removal from the Cabinet a few years ago.
While the former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar's son, Sunil Jakhar, is contesting Firozpur district's Abohar seat again, Congress Working Committee member Jagmeet Singh Brar's brother Ripjit Brar has been fielded from Faridkot district's Kotkapura seat.
The former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar's daughter-in-law Karan Kaur Brar has replaced her husband Kanwarjit Singh Brar, the sitting MLA, as the candidate from Muktsar.
The former State Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo's wife, Harbans Kaur Dullo, a former MLA, has been “adjusted” from the Bassi Pathana (reserved) seat, as he has been denied a ticket.
The former Minister, Bhagwan Dass Arora's son, Aman Arora, has been fielded from the Sunam seat, while the former Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh has been given the ticket in place of his wife and sitting MLA Rana Rajbans Kaur.
Brothers Santokh Singh and Jagjit Singh are contesting from Phillaur and Kartarpur respectively — Mr. Santokh Singh's son Vikramjit Singh is the State Youth Congress president.
Of course, there are the well-connected who fell through the cracks: so, the former Minister and Rajya Sabha member, Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder's husband, P.S. Bhinder, did not manage a ticket, just as Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa's brother Fateh Jung Bajwa, failed to make the grade.