The Shiromani Akali Dal on Sunday announced four more names for the ensuing 2022 Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, fielding first timers Rajanbir and Gur Iqbal Singh Mahal from Sri Hargobidpur and Qadian constituencies, respectively.
SAD president, Sukhbir Singh Badal, on Sunday also announced district party chief, Rohit Vohra, as the party’s Ferozepur candidate. Nusrat Ali Khan will contest from Malerkotla, a Muslim dominated constituency, replacing Yunas Mohammad.
So far, the party has declared 87 candidates for the polls, which it is contesting in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) after breaking ties with the BJP over the issue of farm laws.
In seat sharing arrangement with its new ally Bahujan Samaj Party, the SAD would contest on 97 seats and BSP on 20 seats.
Akali Dal is yet to formally announce candidates from the seats of Lambi — currently represented by five time Chief Minister and Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal — Majitha, currently represented by Sukhbir’s brother-in-law (former Union cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s brother) Bikram Singh Majithia, and Bholath, the hinterland of Akali leader and SGPC president, Jagir Kaur.
A dyed in the wool Akali leader, Malerkotla candidate, Nusrat Ali Khan, 62, is a former Cabinet minister when Akali Dal-BJP formed the government in 1997. As per Khan, he had portfolios of animal husbandry, dairy development, sports and Waqf board.
Khan, who also claims to have served as the Assistant Superintendent of Malerkotla Centrail Jail till 1996, is currently the “main sewadar” (chief caretaker) of dargah (mosque) in the Malerkotla.
Khan, as per a senior party leaders, remained with the Akali Dal even when he was not fielded by the party in 2007, 2012 and the 2017 elections. “He never joined any other party. He used to attend party meetings as a loyal worker all these years,” said the Akali leader.
Yunas Mohammad, who has been replaced as the candidate from Malerkotla, is working as the general manager with Star Impact Private Limited, a leading manufacturer of sports shoes.
Yunas is also a relative of Star Impact Private Limited owner, Mohammad Owais, who was the SAD’s Malerkotla candidate in 2017 elections but lost to Congress’ Razia Sultana.
An Akali leader said that after the Congress formed the government in Punjab, there was “vendetta” politics to frame Owais in a “false case”. “The Akali Dal wanted Owais to contest this time also, but due to the witch hunt he faced, he refused and instead proposed the name of Yunas. Now, it was unanimously decided to field Nusrat Ali Khan,” said the Akali leader.
Owais, too, confirmed that the Akali Dal had offered him the party ticket from Malerkotla, while adding that he declined to contest as he was focusing on expanded business in “United Kingdom, Sri Lanka and other countries.”
Owais said, “I am emotionally attached to my business.”
About complaint against him, he said, “I have been given a clean chit in that”. He added, “I am still the constituency in-charge of Akali Dal”.
Mohammad Mustafa, an IPS officer — who retired in the rank of DGP in Punjab, and who is the husband of Congress legislator from Malerkotla, Razia Sultana — said, “It is a one sided contest in Malerkotla. It is Razia, Razia, Razia ho chali. [People support Razia] in Malerkotla as it was declared a district and medical and girls’ college was set up [in the constituency].”
Mustafa said that the Akali Dal struggled to find party candidate for Malerkotla and named Khan by “bringing a candidate from the political burial ground”.
“One of the richest, Mohammad Owais, didn’t want to contest this time. Yunas Mohammad also ran away,” he said.
Mustafa said that the Akali Dal had now named a candidate who was “first in the history to get a Cabinet berth from Malerkotla, but, ended up forfeiting his security deposit in subsequent election as a candidate of a prominently recognized party.”
Sri Hargobindpur candidate announced by Akali Dal, Rajanbir Singh, had resigned from Punjab Fisheries department to work for the SAD in 2018. Gur Iqbal Singh Mahal, the candidate announced by Akali Dal from Qadian, belongs from the Mahal family affiliated to the party.
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