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Congress names Sunil Jakhar for Gurdaspur bypoll 

Chandigarh, Sep 20 (IANS) The Congress on Wednesday announced Punjab unit President Sunil Jakhar as the party candidate for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat by-election.

The bypoll is scheduled to be held on October 11 and the result will be announced on October 15.

The Congress approved the name of Jakhar, son of former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar, as he was strongly backed by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Jakhar had lost in the Punjab assembly polls in March this year despite the party sweeping the elections — winning 77 out of 117 seats.

The Congress had made Jakhar, considered close to Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Congress President in May this year.

The Lok Sabha seat fell vacant in April this year following the passing away of veteran actor Vinod Khanna due to cancer. Khanna held the seat from 1998 to 2004 and then from 2014 till his demise.

The bypoll could see a tough fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the state’s ruling Congress. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the main opposition party, could play a spoiler for both parties.

The AAP has announced Major General Suresh Khajuria (retd) as its candidate. The BJP, which is yet to announce its candidate, will contest the poll with alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal.

The last date of submission of nomination papers is September 22.

The Congress, fresh from its emphatic win in the state assembly elections, is set to give a tough fight to the BJP.

The names of potential candidates doing the rounds in BJP circles are that of Khanna’s widow, Kavita Khanna, who has looked after the constituency during his hospitalisation and absence from the constituency, and Mumbai-based millionaire businessman Swaran Salaria.

Khanna, a Punjabi born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan), remained popular in the constituency despite accusations from his opponents that he remained absent from the area most of the time.

He had stormed the Congress bastion on his electoral debut in 1998, defeating five-time Congress Member of Parliament Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder. He won the seat in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014.

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