The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has in its first list of 35 candidates announced for Punjab elections brought on board 12 farmers besides 9 Dalit and two women nominees.
Eyeing the rural vote bank the BJP has reached out to the farmers who had launched a year-long agitation against the three controversial farm laws. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the repealing of the farm laws on the auspicious occasion of Gurupurab this year as part of its outreach to accommodate a crucial vote bank. There are as many as 13 Sikhs in the list. Punjab has 59 per cent Sikh voters. Various castes too have been accommodated which includes the Brahmins and Khatris.
Three much talked about names of Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa from Qadiyan, Harjot Kamal from Moga and Harjit Garewal from Rajpura have not been included in the first list. As many as 8 candidates who had switched over from the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress have been allotted tickets.
Former Congressmen, Arvind Khanna, Nameesha Mehta and Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi have been given tickets. Former Akalis, Ranjit Singh Khojewal, Didar Singh Bhatti and Kanwarvir Singh Tohra, grandson of late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, have been accommodated.
Key contestants including Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma will fight from Pathankot, Manoranjan Kalia (former minister) from Jalandhar Central, Rana Gurmit Sodhi (former minister) from Ferozepur city, Kanwarvir Singh from Amloh, Surjit Jiyani (former minister) from Fazilka and Tikshan Sood (former minister) from Hoshiarpur. Two women candidates fielded are Nameesha Mehta (Garhshankar) and Renu Kashyap (Dinanagar).
It is not clear yet as to who will be fielded in the big fights against Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi from Chamkaur Sahib or against PPCC president Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar East or against AAP Punjab president Bhagwant Mann from Dhuri.
BJP is likely to contest a total of 65 seats out of a 117 while alliance partner Punjab Lok Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh will fight at 39 seats. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa led Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) will contest 13 seats.
The list was released in the presence of Punjab BJP incharge Dushyant Gautam and Union Minister Hardeep Puri on Friday in Delhi.