Punjab

Manish Tiwari gets backing of all Congress MLAs in Anandpur Sahib

Anandpur Sahib,May 17,2019: : Former Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tiwari is locked in a four-cornered contest in Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat having an edge over rivals owing to sustained campaigning and support of Congress MLAs.

Manish Tiwari is contesting this seat for the first time and entered the fray with an outsider tag. Incidentally, the SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra, sitting MP and SAD(Taksali) candidate Bir Devinder Singh also belonged to Patiala district, The fourth candidate of AAP Narinder Singh Shergill hails from Mohali which is part of Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat. Shergill had contested 2017 assembly seat of Mohali  unsuccessfully against Balbir Singh Sidhu.

Tiwari finds his strength in his Punjabi roots and support from Congress ministers Rana KP Singh (Anandpur Sahib) speaker of Vidhan Sabha, Charanjit Singh Channi (Chamkaur Sahib) Taechnical Education Minister, Balbir Singh Sidhu (Mohali) Animal Husbandry minister. The Congress has strong foothold in other assembly segments like Balachaur where Darshan lal is MLA and Angad Singh MLA Nawanshahr. AAP MLA from Rupnagar Amarjit Singh Sandoa has joined Congress. Birinder Singh Dhillon who had contested 2017 assembly election against Sandoa is also on the side of Tiwari.

SAD candidate Chadumajra had though won the 2014 Lok Sabha, his party could win only one seat of Banga out of nine segments in 2017. AAP had won Kharar and Garhshankar. In 2009 Ravneet Bittu of Congress had defeated Chandumajra.

The biggest challenge before Chandumajra is SAD (Taksali) candidate Bir Devinder Singh who will cut into Akali vote bank and benefit Congress. Chandumajra is also facing the wrath of Sikhs due to allegations of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during the SAD-BJP government. Out of nine assembly segments, at least three are Sikh dominated. Except for Tiwari, all other three key candidates are Jat Sikhs. The Jat Sikhs comprise one-third of the total voters.

In the previous Lok Sabha election, Prem Singh Chandumajra has polled 3,47394 votes against 3,23697 polled to Ambika Soni of Congress. Himmat Singh Shergill of AAP has polled 30,6008 votes. Makhan Singh of BSP has polled 69124 votes. Chandumajra had defeated Ambika Soni of Congress. SAD had a vote share of 31.97 percent followed by Congress 29.79 and AAP 20.15. After splitting in AAP, it is expected that part of AAP voters will shift to Congress.

Shergill of AAP being a local candidate may pose some competition to Congress but Congress seems to dominate in most of the segments despite anti-incumbency factor. The defection by Rupnagar MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa will hit prospects of Shergill.

Bir Devinder Singh is former deputy speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He was in Congress for over four decades. He developed differences with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and joined SAD in 2012. He was however not given the erespectable position in the party. Finally, he recently joined SAD(Taksali).

The constituency has domination of Rajputs, Brahmins, Jat Sikhs and OBCs. The total number of voters in this constituency is 16,89933. The male voters are 8,60,778 and females are 809,113. Third gender voters are 42. This time 1,50000 new voters have registered. Caste wise 30 percent are jat Sikhs, 15 non-jat Sikhs, 15 Hindu and 20 percent Scheduled Castes.

With the expected division in the Akali Dal votes, the competition appeared to have been narrowed down between Congress and AAP. Though Manish Tiwari is hopeful of clearing the seats, the fingers are however locked.