Ruchika M Khanna:
Chandigarh: This could well be the beginning of a fierce political battle. Almost a year before Punjab goes to the polls, the stage is set for a keen fight between the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress, with the latter raring to turn around its political fortunes.
The battlelines for the Khadoor Sahib byelection, scheduled for February 13, are clearly drawn. Apart from the two main parties, rebel factions of the Aam Aadmi Party, Swaraj Lehar and Punjab Sanjhiwal Morcha, have decided to field their candidates.
The SAD is likely to opt for Ravinder Singh Brahmpura, son of Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, while the Congress may field its old war horse Ramanjit Singh Sikki. Bhai Baldeep Singh, a renowned ragi, and Sumail Singh Sidhu, both AAP rebels, have also announced their candidatures though AAP has decided against contesting.
The seat fell vacant in October last year after Sikki resigned as MLA in protest against the incidents of sacrilege in Punjab. Sikki had participated in the November 10 Sarbat Khalsa called by some Sikh activists. His resignation was accepted on November 17.
With the parties already engaged in a high-decibel war ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, the byelection will be the first battle to be fought on Panthic issues.
The stakes are high for each of the four candidates. Not just a referendum on the government, the byelection will be a litmus test for all the players. Brahmpura Jr will have the entire might of the state behind him. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been camping in Khadoor Sahib and has held innumerable Sangat Darshan functions there.
The byelection will also test the popularity of new PPCC president Capt Amarinder Singh, credited with infusing life into the state unit.
AAP rebel Bhai Baldeep Singh, who contested the Khadoor Sahib LS seat in 2014, and former AAP convener SS Sidhu have been campaigning in the constituency since December.