Diplomatic debut: former US ambassador takes moderate course, discusses developments in tough Amritsar seat for Bharatiya Janata Party | Political News

It was an unusual start to the day as the BJP candidate embraced his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rival at a mosque to fulfill his Eid-ul-Fitr wishes.

Former Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu He hugged Punjab minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal at Jama Masjid near Hall Gate in the walled city of Amritsar. Both were there to celebrate Eid with the Muslim community.

Mr. Sandhu and Mr. Dhaliwal are candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party and AAP respectively for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which will go to polls on June 1 along with the rest of the state. But campaigning has begun in earnest in the constituency, with Sandhu making his political debut and Dhaliwal trying to prevent him from losing the 2019 election. Dhaliwal also happens to have ties to the Indian diaspora in the Americas as the Minister for NRI Affairs in the Punjab government.

The hug comes just a day after Dhaliwal launched a scathing attack on Sandhu over the Y-category guarantee provided to him by the Union government due to farmers’ protests against the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate across Punjab. I was disappointed. Sandhu has already faced such protests.

Dhaliwal also questioned Sandhu’s ideological choices as opposed to his family lineage.

Celebration benefits

Sandhu, 61, is the grandson of Teja Singh Samundari, known in Punjab for his role in the Gurdwara reform movement as a Sikh leader and in the freedom movement as a Congress leader, and recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. The focus for now seems to be on avoiding wars of words. Yet another diplomat is participating in the Bharatiya Janata Party polls, trying to get acquainted with party leaders and workers in Amritsar and gain support in the constituency.

He has admitted that he contracted a throat infection during the first days of campaigning, but disagrees with those who accuse him of being inexperienced in politics. “I have been involved in public service as a bureaucrat, and I think politics is an extension of that,” he says.

This is the third attempt by the BJP to send a big name to the Congress from Amritsar after former finance minister Arun Jaitley and Union minister Hardeep Puri, who is also a former diplomat. Both Mr. Jaitley and Mr. Puri lost in 2014 and 2019 despite Mr. Modi’s support. While Mr. Jaitley later became a member of Parliament through Rajya Sabha, Mr. Puri was already a member of the Upper House when he contested in 2019.

The last time the BJP won from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat was in 2009, when its candidate was Navjot Singh Sidhu, a former cricketer and current Congress MP.

After the Eid meeting, Sandhu headed to a hotel and held a private meeting with about 40 Bharatiya Janata Party rural mandal-level leaders and workers. Sandhu’s Y-category security guard, holding a teacup in his hand and a gun slung over his shoulder, kept close watch. Sandhu then rushed to a second closed-door meeting with city leaders and workers at the Bharatiya Janata Party office near the Durjiana temple.

It is clear that the diplomat entrapment continues for the former ambassador, who was in the United States from February 2020 to January 31, 2024. Mr. Sandhu has a staff that makes reservations in advance and it is difficult for anyone to understand his chalked schedule. But he is trying to change that, noting that these days there are fewer gaps in daily campaigning. Sandhu is being supported by her nieces and nephews, as Lehnert, the wife of India’s ambassador to the Netherlands, is unable to participate in the campaign.

Sandhu says it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who inspired him to become a politician. “After it was suggested to me, I decided to do it. To be honest, I still don’t know if I made the right decision.”

Incidentally, Sandhu is a schoolmate of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal from Sanawar. Although the BJP is contesting India’s parliamentary elections for the first time in a very long time without the support of SAD, Sandhu says this has not adversely affected his personal relationship with Badal.

However, acknowledging that this makes his task even more difficult, Sandhu said: But opportunities also arise from challenges. I feel that the people of Amritsar are hungry for development and I have the experience to help focus on the development agenda. ” At his final public meeting of the day at Civil Line Halka North, he focused on promises along these lines.

What are his views on Congress and its government’s role in Operation Blue Star? Pointing out that he was studying in Delhi during the events of 1984, including anti-Sikh riots, he said that while Amritsar still remembers Operation Blue Star, “the people of Amritsar elected members of parliament. We elected a Congress government. I think the people of Amritsar have shown a broader vision. So I don’t see any reason for anyone to object to me joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is a development-oriented party. I worked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for 10 years and I hope to use those connections for the development of Amritsar.”

Regarding SAD’s criticism that he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party against his grandfather’s politics, Sandhu said, “Congress and Akali were together in the freedom movement. My grandfather was part of the freedom movement and the Gurdwara reform movement. The Akali Dal and the BJP were together until recently. You know what (Mr. Parkash Singh Badal) said about the relationship between the SAD and the BJP. We served together in the Alliance Government. I have nothing more to say.”

On allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party was on a confrontational path with Sikhs after the 2020 farmers’ riots, he said, “Your assessment contains a lot of assumptions. And those assumptions are incorrect. .The BJP is not an anti-Sikh party.I have worked with Prime Minister Modi for 10 years. ), and a number of other initiatives for Sikhs. I am sure that Prime Minister Modi will provide special policies for Amritsar when it comes to investments and farmers. It’s development.”

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