Indian Lok Sabha Elections 2024: BJP’s Amritsar candidate Taranjit Sandhu on American cure for Punjab’s ills : The Tribune India

Tribune News Service

Charanjit Singh Teja

Amritsar, May 18

Punjabis have always been fascinated by dreams of foreign countries. Ahead of the 2017 state assembly elections, Shiromani Akali Party leader and then-Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal promised to turn Punjab into California. But the Akali Party’s crushing defeat left the idea in tatters. Seven years on, “transforming into America” ​​is back in the spotlight, thanks to Sukhbir’s old friend, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha candidate from Amritsar.

Sandhu, a former Indian ambassador to the US who retired earlier this year after a 35-year career that included four postings in the US, is keen to pitch the “American connection” to voters in the Holy Land. “Working in the US, I harboured a dream of transforming Amritsar into a world-class city. I am brimming with ideas,” asserts the 1988-class Indian Foreign Service officer, calling the Rs 8,500 crore recently provided by a US-based organisation to support start-ups in Amritsar a “trailer”.

At every rally, the former diplomat tries to explain how the problems plaguing Amritsar and Punjab are being tackled in the US. “Recently, two effective drugs have been invented in the US to treat drug addiction. I will ensure that these drugs are provided free of charge to addicts in Punjab… I am sure that no sitting Congressman has even heard of these drugs,” he said, targeting his Congress opponent Gurjeet Singh Aujla. At another rally, he referred to White House counternarcotics chief Rahul Gupta and other top US narcotics agents, saying, “They are eager to help Punjab counter the drug menace.”

Sandhu, who served as Deputy Ambassador at the US Embassy from 2013 to 2016, also boasts of his “good relationship” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “If I become a member of Parliament and Modi becomes Prime Minister for a third time, large investments and new projects will flow into Amritsar,” Sandhu says in Fatehgarh Shukurchak village near Attari. The former ambassador, who often mentions Modi and the US in the same sentence, doesn’t forget to mention the Indian diaspora too. “People from our community in the US are happy to support us. They have raised Rs 85 crore for creating employment opportunities in Amritsar. Even if the government does not give us money, we will raise our standard of living with the support of the diaspora,” Sandhu asserts at a rally at the famous Jani Tea Stall. “How about selling Amritsar’s ‘papads’ and ‘wadians’ in American shops,” Sandhu asks a few in the crowd.

However, winning the Amritsar seat will be an uphill task for the BJP after big-name leaders like former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Minister Hardeep Puri were defeated in 2014 and 2019. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu (now with the Indian National Congress) was the last BJP leader to win the Amritsar seat three consecutive times, in 2004, 2007 and 2009. Sandhu was recently subjected to black flag hoisting in the rural areas of Rajasanthi and Ajnala, raising further concerns.

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#BJP #Lok Sabha #Shiromani Akali Dal #Sukhbir Badal #United States of America

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