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December 16, 2017
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None has the edge in Dalit heartlandThe jury’s out on which party is best placed in Doaba, which accounts for 23 seats.

The ruling SAD took a hit last year when three of its MLAs — Pargat Singh, Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Avinash Chander — left the party. The Akalis have attempted to control the damage by fielding new faces — Valmiki councillor Paramjit Pamma from Kapurthala, Dera Sachkhand Ballan pointman Satpal Mal from Kartarpur and ex-BSP leader Baldev Khaira from Phillaur. The BJP was beset by infighting on reserved seats, including Phagwara and Jalandhar West.

If AAP faltered on the choice of candidates at some places and scored self-goals, the party got a head start as far as campaigning was concerned. The party roped in new faces from all walks of life — a safai karamchari from Kartarpur, a student from Banga, a retired Brigadier from Balachaur, a dhadi from Phillaur, an Arjuna awardee cager from Sultanpur Lodhi, an NRI from Kapurthala and doctors on Jalandhar Central, Sham Chaurasi and Shahkot seats.

However, some prominent leaders left the party, including national executive member Yamini Gomar and retired IG SS Sodhi, who joined the Congress, and hockey Olympian Rajbir Kaur, who switched over to the SAD.

In the Congress camp, ticket allotment was delayed on several seats. Pargat Singh and Jagbir Brar remained locked in a fight over the Jalandhar Cantonment seat, before the former made it. The party played musical chairs on some seats — Jagbir Brar from Nakodar (instead of Jalandhar Cantonment), Satnam Kainth from Banga (instead of Adampur) and Mohinder Singh Kaypee from Adampur (instead of Jalandhar West).

In Nawanshahr, the Congress pitted sitting MLA Guriqbal Kaur’s son Angad Saini against his uncle and former MP Charanjit Channi, contesting on the AAP ticket. Cousins Vikramjit Chaudhary and Chaudhary Surinder Singh have been fielded from Phillaur and Kartarpur, respectively.

AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited Dera Sachkhand Ballan, which has a sizeable presence of Dalit followers, and had a close-door meeting with sect head Niranjan Dass after his rally at Phillaur. The BSP managed a show of strength as party chief Mayawati held a rally at Phagwara. The campaign of almost all major parties remained Dalit-centric in Doaba, which has eight reserved seats out of 23