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Punjab byelections a challenge as separatists plan to contest

NewsPunjab byelections a challenge as separatists plan to contest

CHANDIGARH: In a troubling precedent set by Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh’s electoral victory, individuals with criminal backgrounds and radical ideologies are increasingly viewing electoral politics as a viable avenue, despite their avowed opposition to the Indian Constitution. Daljit Singh Kalsi, an associate of the incarcerated Khalistani leader, has announced his candidacy for the upcoming by-election in Punjab’s Dera Baba Nanak Assembly constituency.

This announcement follows similar declarations by Bhagwant Singh Bajeke and Kulwant Singh Rauke, also close associates of Amritpal Singh, who plan to contest elections from Gidderbaha and Barnala constituencies, respectively.Neeru Kalsi, wife of Daljit Singh Kalsi, announced his decision after visiting him in jail, conveying the news via a video message and appealing for public support ahead of an upcoming press conference to provide further details.

The vacancies in Assembly seats arose after four sitting MLAs transitioned to parliamentary roles: two from AAP and two from Congress. Punjab Congress Chief, formerly Gidderbaha MLA, secured Ludhiana’s MP seat, while INC leader Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, ex-MLA of Dera Baba Nanak, won in Gurdaspur. AAP’s Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, from Barnala, now represents Sangrur, and Raj Kumar of Chabbewal, once MLA, secured Hoshiarpur. Jalandhar West’s Sheetal Angural switched to BJP, with his resignation recently accepted by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, leading to the announcement of five Punjab Assembly by-polls.

The candidacies of Kalsi and his associates underscore a growing trend among Khalistani activists to actively engage in electoral processes, buoyed by recent successes like Amritpal Singh’s and Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa’s wins in the Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, Bhagwant Singh, also known as ‘Pradhanmantri Bajeke’ and Kulwant Singh Rauke, both detained in Dibrugarh Jail, have declared their intentions to contest the by-elections from Gidderbaha and Barnala, respectively. Akashdeep Singh, identifying as Bajeke’s son, confirmed his father’s candidacy via video message, while Maha Singh, Rauke’s cousin, affirmed his electoral ambitions.

In a separate development, Sandeep Singh Sunny’s brother, commonly known as Sunny, involved in the shooting of Shiv Sena leader Sudhir Suri in Amritsar, announced Sunny’s candidacy for the Dera Baba Nanak by-election. Sandeep Sunny initially planned to contest in the general elections from Amritsar but withdrew and is currently incarcerated in Patiala Jail. Notably, two incarcerated candidates are set to contest from the same electoral seat.
The upcoming by-elections will be held in five assembly constituencies: Dera Baba Nanak, Gidderbaha, Barnala, Chabbewal, and Jalandhar West, following vacancies created by their respective MLAs’ recent Lok Sabha victories. The Election Commission is expected to announce the by-poll schedule within the next six months, contingent upon declarations of vacancies by the Punjab Assembly Speaker.

All three candidates—Kalsi, Bajeke, and Rauke—will run as independents, facing significant legal hurdles as the Punjab government has extended the National Security Act (NSA) against them for another year, requiring bail for temporary release. These candidacies introduce a new dimension to Punjab’s political landscape, showcasing evolving strategies among Khalistani activists and highlighting the intersection of political aspirations with legal challenges in the region. With the by-elections approaching, these developments are poised to deeply impact Punjab’s political dynamics in the near future.

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