Chandigarh, March 16: Two dimpled beauties from Bollywood will be taking on the controversial and four-time Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal here in the Lok Sabha battle.
Facing them will be Bansal, 65, a former railway minister who quit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet after his nephew was caught with Rs.90 lakh, meant to secure a lucrative post for a railway officer.
There is a third woman candidate too in Chandigarh: Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Jannat Jahan, 34, a local municipal councillor.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Chandigarh saw just one woman contestant.
At the outset, both Kher and Panag will have to fight out the charge that they are ‘outsiders’ in Chandigarh.
Even though Kher was born and brought up in Chandigarh and her sister lives here and Panag’s father too is settled here, both celebrities live in Mumbai.
Kher could face opposition from three top BJP leaders — Chandigarh BJP president Sanjay Tandon, former MP Satya Pal Jain and former union minister Harmohan Dhawan. All three wanted the Chandigarh ticket.
“The ladies have just about 25 days to prove their credentials as serious politicians to the electorate in Chandigarh. They will have to ward off criticism that they are parachute candidates who don’t really have a link to Chandigarh,” Shrieya, a student and first-time voter, told IANS.
Outgoing MP Bansal, who won from Chandigarh in 1991, 1999, 2004 and 2009 but lost in 1996 and 1998, will have to toil hard this time with the union territory’s electorate of over 5.80 lakh.
In 2009, Bansal defeated his BJP rival by nearly 60,000 votes. Nearly 65 percent of the city voters exercised their franchise in 2009 compared to a dismal 50 percent in 2004.
Even though Bansal was not named in the case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the scam involving his close family members and associates in May 2013, he was forced to resign as the railway minister.
The taint continues to haunt Bansal. This is his first major election after the episode.
“Bansal became quite a villain after his relatives were caught red-handed taking huge sums of bribes. His otherwise clean image has taken a beating. His family and relatives prospered in recent years as his political stature grew. The voters could teach him a lesson this time,” businessman Arun Bharadwaj told IANS.
Both Kher and Panag are sure to woo the 45.7 percent women voters in Chandigarh. The young voters (18-25 years) constitute over 19 percent of the electorate. Voters 25-to-40 years old form nearly 40 percent.
“I am happy the BJP has given me the ticket to contest. I was born and brought up here. My family still lives here,” Kher said after her name was announced by the BJP late Saturday.
A former Miss India, Panag was propped up by the AAP after the party’s original candidate, Savita Bhatti, wife of the late Jaspal Bhatti, refused to contest saying the local AAP unit was not cooperating with her.