Chandigarh: Two top Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders namely Sukhbir Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia and the Congress’ firebrand candidate Sukhpal Khaira are among 173 candidates in February 20 assembly polls in Punjab, who have criminal cases registered against them.
They make more than one-third of the total of the 468 candidates fielded by all the four political majors - the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), SAD-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance, and the BJP-Punjab Lok Congress (PLC)-SAD (Sanyukt) alliance, as per the affidavits submitted by the candidates with the election commission.
The SAD chief Sukhbir Badal, a five-time MP (four-time Lok Sabha and once Rajya Sabha) and three-time MLA, who is contesting from Jalalabad, has seven FIRs against him, including one for alleged criminal intimidation.
The two-time chief minister and five-time MLA, Capt Amarinder, who has floated his Punjab Lok Congress after parting ways from Congress about five months ago, and who is fighting from Patiala Urban, has a case related to alleged income tax invasion.
Another firebrand SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, a three-time MLA, who is also the brother-in-law of Sukhbir Badal and contesting from Amritsar (East), has six cases against him, including one registered about a few weeks ago under Section 27-A of the NDPS Act for allegedly financing illicit traffic of drugs and harbouring offenders.
The Congress’ gritty candidate from Bholath seat, Sukhpal Khaira, a two-time MLA, has three cases registered against him, including one under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), his alleged involvement in a drug and weapons haul case of 2015. Khaira was in jail for about 75 days till recently and has been granted bail by Punjab and Haryana High Court, a few weeks ago.
The AAP candidate from Ajnala Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, a first-timer, and SAD candidate from Ludhiana (North) R D Sharma, who has remained deputy-mayor, is facing murder charges.
The SAD candidate from Gidderbaha Hardeep Singh Dimpy Dhillon, who was the constituency in-charge and is a prominent transporter, has two FIRs against him for allegedly capturing election booths and removal of ballot papers.
All the four main players have fielded 117 candidates each in the fray for all the total 117 seats in Punjab. Sukhbir Singh Badal-led SAD and its alliance partner BSP, have 68 such candidates who have declared about 160 cases registered against themselves.
The AAP having 60 candidates with 108 cases stands at number two, followed by the BJP-led alliance, which also includes former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s PLC and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s SAD (Sanyukt).
The last-named alliance has 31 candidates who have declared 37 criminal cases against them in their election affidavits whereas the Congress, which ruled the state for the last five years, has 14 such candidates with 24 criminal cases.
It is pertinent to mention that a total of 1,304 candidates are in the fray, and 298 of them have criminal cases and the election laws allow such candidates to contest so long as they have not been convicted in a criminal case in which a jail term of two or more years has been awarded.
However, there were said to be nine assembly segments in which there was not a single candidate having any criminal case. These seats are – Amritsar (central), Attari, Batala, Fatehgarh Churian, Rajasansi, Rampura Phul, Shutrana, Sujanpur and Ghanaur.