Ashish Khetan and Kanwar Sandhu of AAP
Even though the Aam Aadmi Party could not make it to the victory pedestal in Punjab despite all the hype during its high decibel campaign, journalists in the field on its ticket achieved a good striking rate.
All the four journalists in the fray were from the AAP despite its love-hate relationship with the media. Three of them romped home while the only 'import' from Delhi, Jarnail Singh, went down fighting the two towering political leaders of Punjab - the outgoing chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the incoming chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
Jarnail Singh, who had resigned his Assembly seat in Delhi to become eligible to contest Assembly elections in Punjab, was hoping to be the giant killer. His supporters had been pitching him for the post of chief minister after the party's expected "grand victory" in the state.
A former reporter with a Hindi national daily in the national Capital, Jarnail Singh's claim to fame was a shoe thrown by him at the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram during a press conference he was covering for his newspaper. His grouse was that several leaders guilty of 1984 massacre of the Sikhs had not been punished. Even as media organisations had condemned the attack by a professional during the course of a press conference, several Sikh radical organisations had feted him for his 'action'.
Subsequently he had joined AAP and had won a seat for his party. Being a Sikh he was actively involved in preparing the party's strategy in Punjab and was billed as one of the prominent Sikh face of the party. He is believed to have volunteered to contest against the 89 year old chief minister from his home constituency of Lambi from where Badal had won six elections and was looking for a seventh, and perhaps last, victory.
What shattered Jarnail Singh's dream and made it an even more keen contest was the decision of Capt Amarinder Singh to also contest from Lambi to defeat Badal. There was a section of experts who believed that the entry of Amarinder from Lambi was a ploy to divide votes and let Badal win "under a compromise formula" which also assured silent support of Akalis to Congress candidates in some other constituencies. All this is in the realm of conjectures as no shred of evidence is available to back the theory.
Amarinder did cut substantially into the "anti incumbency votes" of Jarnail Singh. While Amarinder secured 43,605 votes, Jarnail Singh had to remain content with 21,254 votes. He also lost his security deposit. As against their combined votes, the senior Badal netted 66,375 votes defeating his closest rival Amarinder by a margin of 22,770 votes.
But elsewhere, in all the other three seats contested by journalists on behalf of AAP, its candidates came out victorious. Kanwar Sandhu, who has held senior editorial positions in The Indian Express, India Today, Hindustan Times and The Tribune, won a hard fought battle from Kharar. He defeated his closest rival from the Congress, former Minister Jagmohan Singh Kang, by a margin of 2012 votes. Kanwar secured 54,171 votes against Kang's 52,159 who was closely trailed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Ranjit Singh Gill with 46,807 votes. Kanwar was trailing in the initial rounds of counting but managed to win narrowly in the three-cornered contest.
Unfortunately for Kanwar, his 36-year-old son, Dr Karan Sandhu, who had come from Canada to help him with his campaign, passed away after a massive heart attack just a week and a half before the election results were declared. Kanwar dedicated his victory to his son even as his supporters refrained from celebrating the victory in the memory of Dr Karan Sandhu.
Another journalist in the fray, Manjit Singh Bilaspur, from the Nihalsingh Wala constituency, registered a victory for AAP in a triangular contest. He secured 67,313 votes while his closest rival Rajwinder Kaur of the Congress bagged 39,739 votes and the SAD candidate S R Kaler trailed at the number three slot with 34,865 votes.
Kulwant Singh, another journalist representing the AAP from the Meharkalan constituency, registered a convincing victory in another three cornered contest. He bagged 57551 against Ajit Singh Shant of the SAD who secured 30487 while Harchand Kaur of Congress polled 25688 votes.
Interestingly the AAP had initially given ticket to another journalist from the Bhao constituency but had later changed its candidate. The party lost the election in that constituency.
Even though the Congress did not field any journalist, it had a couple of journalists working and advising it. Vimal Sumbly, a former correspondent of The Tribune is the media advisor to Capt Amarinder Singh and had remained with him through the last five years. Another senior journalist Raveen Thukral, a former senior editorial staffer with The Hindustan Times and The Tribune, was often seen advising Amarinder Singh at his residence during the days of campaign.
With three journalists in the opposition AAP legislature party, those on duty from their former profession hopefully will not run short of copy.