In Congress, you are as young as you think: For poll tickets in Punjab, age is just a number

7A lesser-known MLA from Samrala, Amrik Singh Dhillon, has now become an analogy of sorts in the Congress. The reason may sound interesting but has left the party stumped. Not only has 74-year-old Amrik himself applied for a ticket to contest his seat but his son Kamaljit Dhillon (52) and grandson Karanvir Dhillon, who turned 26 in September, are also contenders.
After getting just 100-odd applications from youth up to 35 years of age, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh had announced at a press conference that the age criteria for youth is up to 45 years. Kamaljit did not fit the bill still, so the party was mulling over fielding Dhillon’s grandson, instead.
But as it turns out, it is the grandfather who has done well in the surveys and his rating is much higher than both the son and the grandson. As the grand old party tries to adjust at least 30 young candidates among Punjab’s 117 seats, it cannot afford to give up on its most important criterion of winnability.
Karanvir admits it is the grandfather who has done well in the surveys. “There is a greater possibility that he would contest elections. He is popular among people of the area for the work he has done and his age is not an issue at all,” he says.
Among the expected “son-rise” cases, the surveys gave a higher rating to Nawanshahr MLA Guriqbal Kaur than her son Angad Singh, 25.
Amarinder’s ‘one family, one ticket’ rule and the youth criterion may also see either former MLA Inderjit Singh Zira or his son Kulbir Zira contesting the polls.
On other seats, expect the Congress to relax the youth category age up to 50 years and even beyond. “After all, you are as young as you think”, says party’s firebrand MLA Kuljit Nagra, who is 51.
Nagra is among the young turks of Punjab MLAs considered to be a part of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s team, who too will figure in the “youth” list that also includes Gurkirat Kotli and Charanjit Singh Channi, both of whom are above 45 years. Former MP, Vijay Inder Singla, 45, too fits the “youth: criterion and is set to get Sangrur seat.
Others sitting MLAs in the list are Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Navtej Cheema, who are all below 45 years.
It is not just sitting MLAs who are entitled to age relaxation. Gurpreet Gogi, who is eyeing party’s ticket from Ludhiana South, is also 45.
Amarinder, who has invited youth aged between 18 and 35 to register for his poll bonanza of 50 lakh mobile phones and promised ‘one job per family’, says the age bar has gone up for candidates since the life expectancy of people has gone up too.
“Earlier the life expectancy was 60 years. Now, people go on to live till 90 years. The chief minister of the state (Parkash Singh Badal) is 94 and hides his age to contest polls. He claimed he celebrated his 89th birthday on December 8,” Amarinder quipped.

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