The Congress has released a first list of 86 candidates for next month’s Punjab Assembly election.
Chief Minister Charanjit Channi will fight from his seat of Chamkaur Saheb, while the party’s state unit chief, Navjot Sidhu, will be fielded from his Amritsar (East) constituency.
Deputy Chief Ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa has been given the Dera Baba Nanak seat ticket. The state’s other Deputy Chief Minister, Om Prakash Soni, will fight from Amritsar (Central).
Both will look to defend seats they won in 2017, as will Navjot Sidhu and Chief Minister Channi.
Former state unit and campaign committee chief Sunil Jakhar will not contest the election, but his nephew, Sandeep Jakhar, will contest the Abohar assembly seat instead.
Actor-activist Sonu Sood’s sister Malvika, who joined the Congress on Tuesday and was hailed by Sidhu as a “game-changer”, has been given the Moga ticket.
A miffed Harjot Kamal, who lost out to Ms Sood in the race for that seat, has joined the BJP.
Sidhu Moosewala, the controversial Punjabi singer who joined the party last month, will be fielded from the Mansa Assembly seat, which is his hometown. Moosewala – known to flaunt guns in his music videos – faces many cases that accuse him of glorifying violence. His joining the party raised eyebrows and prompted hard questions of Navjot Sidhu, which he stonewalled at the time.
Among other seats announced, the Congress has retained Gurpreet Singh for the Bassi Pathana Assembly constituency, which the Chief Minister wanted for his brother.
Minister Brahm Mohindra’s son Mohit will be fielded from the Patiala (rural) seat, and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Singh Bajwa will contest from the Qadian seat in Gurdaspur.
Rupinder Kaur, who switched over from the AAP last year, has got the Malout constituency ticket.
The party has shut out MLA Balwinder Singh Laddi, who last month quit to join the BJP, but then returned to the Congress just six days later. Mr Laddi is the MLA from Sri Hargobindpur (a reserved seat), the ticket for which has now been given to Mandeep Singh Rangar Nangal.
Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in November in connection with a money laundering case linked to drug smuggling, has been given the Bholath ticket.
The Congress’ first list contains only nine women – a distinct surprise given its promise to field 40 per cent women candidates in Uttar Pradesh, where Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is leading the party’s charge.
The ruling Congress is fighting to retain power in one of very few states it rules outright, with strong challenges expected from the BJP and the AAP, which has already released nine lists of candidates.
Voting for Punjab’s 117 seats will take place in a single phase on February 14.
Results will be announced on March 10.