With sitting MP Manish Tewari deciding against fighting this time due to health reasons, Congress has fielded sitting Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, who is the grandson of Beant Singh, the former chief minister who was assassinated by extremists in 1995.

The ruling SAD-BJP alliance has fielded Manpreet Singh Ayali for the seat and is relying on his popular image here.

Although there are a total of 22 candidates in the fray, apart from Bittu and Ayali, only Simarjit Singh Bains and Aam Aadmi Party nominee H S Phoolka are being seen as the other serious challengers for the seat.

But poll observers say that the contest is likely to be a straight race between Bittu and Ayali.

39-year-old Ayali, who is the present MLA of Dakha, is a formidable opponent for Bittu as he is said to enjoy a good standing with the locals here and had also been the chairman of Ludhiana Zila Parishad for five years.

During that stint, he won a commendation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself for making a crucial contribution towards the rural sanitation programme and rural water supply system here.

As Ayali banks on his performance and also on the 'Modi wave' for success here, Bittu would be hoping for a repeat of 2009 for Congress when Tewari beat his SAD–BJP rival Gurcharan Singh Ghalib by a margin of over one lakh votes.

Even though Bittu (38) was a bit late in hitting the poll trail here, he is trying his best to capitalise on the legacy of his slain grandfather.

Rivals, however, charge that Beant Singh's legacy has already been much exploited by his family with elder son Tej Prakash Singh and daughter Gurkanwal Kaur both having become ministers while grandson Gurkirat Singh Kotli was elected the Khanna MLA.

This industrial town, which is going to polls on April 30, has more than 15 lakh voters, of which 2.5 lakh are workers in various industries.


Although the contest is largely expected to be between Congress and SAD-BJP, both Bittu and Ayali would be wary of the presence of the 58-year-old AAP candidate Phoolka in the fray, especially after the party's convener Arvind Kejriwal held a road-show in the city.

Phoolka, who has been fighting cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in courts in Delhi, will also be banking on the support of a sizable chunk of the kin of the victims as he looks to overcome Congress and SAD-BJP. He has also been offered support by some 1984 riot victims' associations.

The fourth candidate of note who has jumped into the poll arena here is Independent contestant Simarjit Singh Bains, who was earlier with the Akalis.

This time he is banking on his own and his brother Balwinder Bains' popularity here as both of them are MLAs who represent the Atam Nagar and Ludhiana South seat, respectively.

Their road shows and meetings have been impressive even though they do not have any party organisation which they can boast of, unlike their rivals.

The CPI(M) and BSP candidates are, respectively, Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon and Navjot Singh Mandair.

(Agencies)

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