Chandigarh/Shimla, May 17, 2019-
Campaigning ended on Friday for 13 parliamentary constituencies in Punjab, four in Himachal Pradesh and the lone Chandigarh seat, with two Union ministers in the fray and former Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal trying to make it to the Lok Sabha.
On the last day of campaigning, Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressed a public meeting in Solan town in Himachal Pradesh while BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Hoshiarpur in Punjab.
Singh said development and curbing corruption were the priorities of the Modi government.
Gandhi slammed the Modi government for its demonetisation decision, saying: “Demonetisation was one of the biggest blows to India’s economy but Prime Minister Modi does not realise his mistakes. He is always in his own world and does not listen to well-informed people.”
Punjab Congress Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu addressed a rally at Lambi village in Bathinda district where he raised the issue of sacrilege of religious books.
“If the culprits are not put behind bars, I will resign from my ministerial post,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah also campaigned in Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh while Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned aggressively in Punjab.
In Punjab, all eyes are on two prestigious seats — Amritsar and Gurdaspur — that will witness a clash of personalities with the BJP-Akali Dal fielding greenhorns.
While the BJP has fielded Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, 69, in his electoral debut from Amritsar, the Congress has retained its sitting incumbent Gurjit Aujla.
BJP’s actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol, 62, is fighting from Gurdaspur, the seat represented four times by actor Vinod Khanna who died in April, 2017, due to cancer.
Deol is pitted against Congress state unit President Sunil Jakhar, who won the October 2017 by-election with a margin of 1.92 lakh votes.
Interestingly in this battleground, ex-Chief Minister and SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur is locked in a straight contest in the SAD’s pocket borough Bathinda from where she has won thrice.
Her husband and former Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is in the fray from Ferozepur.
The main contest is between the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Congress.
In neighbouring BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh, all eyes are now on two ‘prestige’ seats — Mandi and Hamirpur — in a battle of supremacy between two BJP leaders, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his two-time predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal, who has been almost marginalised in state politics after a humiliating defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls.
Dhumal is trying to ensure a four-in-a-row victory for his son Anurag Thakur, former chief of the state and national cricket bodies, from his Hamirpur bastion with a record margin this time.
In Mandi, Chief Minister Thakur’s prestige is at stake to retain the seat as incumbent MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, known for his proximity to the Chief Minister, is facing anti-incumbency.
The main contest is between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.
Meanwhile, the Union Territory of Chandigarh is all set for a triangular contest.
The BJP has retained its outgoing MP Kirron Kher, who is banking on Modi’s popularity, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded former Union Minister Harmohan Dhawan, a rebel BJP MP who had supported Kher in the previous Lok Sabha election.
Congress nominee and former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is also in the fray from Chandigarh, which has 6.20 lakh voters.
While a 20,781,211-strong electorate would decide the fate of 278 candidates in 13 constituencies in Punjab, in Himachal, 51.59 lakh voters will vote for 45 candidates.(Agency)