Last week, three Congress MLAs in Punjab joined the BJP. All three of them are known to be loyal to former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and yet, they have not joined his new party Punjab Lok Congress (PLC).
WHO ARE THE THREE MLAs?
Rana Gurmit Sodhi, Congress MLA from Guru Har Sahai and former cabinet minister, joined the BJP on December 21. He served as the sports minister in Captain Amarinder Singh’s cabinet and was dropped after Singh resigned from the post of chief minister.
Fateh Jang Bajwa, Congress MLA from Qadiyan, joined the BJP on December 22. He has been close to Amarinder Singh, who reportedly helped him get a party ticket in the past.
Balwinder Singh Laddi, Congress MLA from Sri Hargobindpur, also joined the BJP on December 22. He has been close to cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who is a Captain loyalist.
WHY ARE CAPTAIN LOYALISTS JOINING BJP?
There is speculation that Captain Amarinder Singh may merge his party PLC with the BJP in the near future. The fact that leaders close to him are joining the BJP suggests that this could be his plan.
However, Punjab Lok Congress spokesperson Prince Khullar denied these rumours and said the leaders had joined the BJP after consulting Captain Amarinder Singh.
One reason for the leaders’ decision to join the BJP, as offered by PLC, could be that those who are keen to contest the upcoming state Assembly election from BJP stronghold constituencies are joining the BJP so the party can retain its traditional vote bank.
According to Prince Khullar, Rana Gurmit Sodhi wanted to contest from Firozpur City and Fateh Jang Bajwa wanted to contest from the Hindu belt. As these are constituencies from where the BJP traditionally contests, the leaders decided to join BJP.
“There is an understanding between the alliance partners BJP, PLC and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) that the primary criteria for selection of candidates will be their win-ability. The traditional vote banks of the alliance partners will also be kept in mind while deciding the tickets,” Prince Khullar said.
For the upcoming state Assembly election to be held early next year, the BJP, PLC and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) are alliance partners.
BJP-LED ALLIANCE WORKING ON SEAT-SHARING MECHANISM
The front led by the BJP, PLC and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) is yet to figure out a seat-sharing arrangement. As per sources, PLC and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) will contest in rural areas while the BJP will contest in urban areas.
When BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal were alliance partners, the BJP contested in the urban areas and SAD had its traditional vote bank in the rural areas.
In previous elections in Punjab, the BJP has contested in 23 urban seats including Pathankot, Bhoa, Dinanagar, Jalandhar North, Jalandhar Central, Mukerian, Dasuya, Anandpur Sahib, Hoshiyarpur, Fazilka and Firozpur City, Abohar, Fazilka, Phagwara and Sujanpur. The party has also contested in Hindu-dominated areas.