SAD, Cong rebels play musical chairs in Patiala

The daughter of late Shiromani Akali Dal minister and stalwart Captain Kanwaljit Singh, Manpreet Dolly, who had contested the Dera Bassi seat as an Independent in the 2012 Assembly polls, is likely to join the Congress formally in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

To storm the strongest bastion of the Congress, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal had last year wooed Deepinder Dhillon, the loyalist of Patiala MP and Union minister Preneet Kaur. Dhillon, who had contested as a Congress rebel from Dera Bassi in Patiala Lok Sabha constituency, polled the second highest number of votes much of it coming from Congress supporters.

The Congress also planned its own coup by winning the allegiance of Captain Kanwaljit Singh's family and Manpreet Dolly had contested the Dera Bassi seat as an Independent despite efforts to placate her by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Kanwaljit's son Jasjit Singh Bunny, however, had toed Sukhbir's line despite being denied the Dera Bassi Assembly ticket on the promise of the Lok Sabha ticket from here.

Patiala being the stronghold of its erstwhile royals, Preneet is the undisputed candidate unlike the SAD, which has now created a list of contenders.

Malwinder Singh, younger brother of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, who was nursing his wounds after being denied a ticket for the Assembly polls, had embraced SAD before the Assembly polls over promise of Lok Sabha ticket from Patiala.

Deepinder Dhillon, who was brought in to counter Malvinder, is also learnt to have been promised a ticket. Also, staking a claim are kin of Akali ministers and MLAs from Patiala, both former and sitting.

While Congress has wooed Dolly, her inclusion has more symbolic value than affecting the poll arithmetic. Patiala will see more such "coups" in battle of prestige between the two sides.

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