The BJP hopes to break the 10-year jinx through former diplomat Sandhu.

Amritsar, May 27 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), through Taranjit Singh Sandhu, is making its third attempt to break the decade-long jinx in one of India’s holiest cities, Amritsar in Punjab.

This soft-spoken and aristocratic diplomat redefined India-US relations before entering politics.

Sandhu is the third prominent personality from Amritsar to try his luck from the Lok Sabha seat, after the late Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Minister Hardeep Puri, also a former diplomat.

The Amritsar constituency is witnessing a four-cornered contest between candidates from the Indian National Congress, the ruling AAP, the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

In a security breach in December 2023, sitting MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla had the audacity to snatch a smoke bomb from an attacker and throw it outside the Parliament building. With two consecutive victories, he is aiming for a third consecutive victory as the Congress candidate.

The Jat-majority constituency of Amritsar was represented by the BJP candidate, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, from 2004 to 2014.

Sidhu is now out of politics but remains a member of Parliament.

After the humiliating defeat of high-profile candidate Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Hardeep Puri, who is a Sikh but not a Jat, became the second BJP leader to lose a seat at the height of the “Modi wave”.

Puri faced a tough head-to-head contest and lost to Aujla by a margin of 99,626 votes.

“This is a battle of prestige – not only to break the winning streak in Amritsar constituency since 2014 but also to ensure victory by a record margin,” a local BJP leader told IANS.

For Sandhu, a turbaned Sikh who is also trying to woo urban Hindu voters, he sees Modi’s presence as a major advantage.

The walled city of Amritsar is the seat of several Sikh organisations, including the Akal Takht, the highest secular headquarters of Sikhism, and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), regarded as a mini-parliament for Sikh religious affairs, founded in the late 16th century by Guru Ramdas, the fourth Sikh guru.

While the AAP has fielded minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, the Akali Dal has put its faith in prominent Hindu figure Anil Joshi, who has represented the Amritsar (North) Assembly constituency twice as the saffron party candidate and believes his achievements as a minister in the SAD-BJP government will surpass those of Aujla.

Joshi was expelled from the BJP for six years in July 2021 for criticising the state and central leadership’s mishandling of the farm protests.

BJP candidate Sandhu believes there is overwhelming support for Prime Minister Modi’s leadership in developing and progressing a “Vikshit Amritsar” and in his election campaign has emphasised his vision for Amritsar with improved infrastructure, jobs and law enforcement, with a special focus on anti-drug measures.

“We have a huge potential to leverage our medical expertise and develop Amritsar as a healthcare tourism hub,” he was quoted as saying.

During his election campaign, Sandhu had lunch with a Dalit family to gauge the sentiments of the economically backward. After asking about their problems with water, power and sewerage, he promised the elderly woman head of the family that he would come back if he won and enjoy the same meal sitting on the floor.

Punjab has a staggering 32 percent of its population made up of scheduled castes, the highest percentage of any state.

Reacting to Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group International’s announcement to open a logistics and food processing centre in Amritsar, Sandhu said he believed PM Modi’s confidence was behind the decision and the establishment of the centre would help advance the ‘Vikshit Amritsar’ initiative.

“I worked with Prime Minister Modi for 10 years and our country prospered. His foreign policy and investments in India were geared towards development. Now our children are taking up jobs in India. We have to bring the same vision of ‘vikas’ (development) to Amritsar,” he told IANS.

He said the incumbent councillors have not done anything substantial for the local industry in the last 10 years and highlighted the inefficiency in implementing central schemes in Amritsar.

“I am committed to addressing all the issues they (voters) have raised,” he added.

Sandhu, who believes in serving with honesty and transparency, has a host of ideas to highlight the holy city in infrastructural development, job creation and promoting a harmonious environment.

The former diplomat’s ‘Vikshit Amritsar’ initiative includes alternative solutions for agricultural development and sustainability, as well as setting up a trade corridor for Amritsar with potential for international expansion.

He also believes that the Modi government has made great strides in supporting and uplifting the Sikh community, promoting their development and honouring their contribution to the nation.

During the election campaign, the former Indian ambassador to the US visited Ajnala and Attari and highlighted his vision of introducing a special development package for redevelopment of the border areas and taking steps towards growth in the education, agriculture, health and infrastructure sectors.

Sandhu said he would listen to the grievances of local traders who want to resume trade with Pakistan through the Integrated Check Point (ICP) and make efforts to revive trade through the Attari-Wagah border.

He also promised to bring a special consignment to the holy place to beautify and purify it on the pattern of Indore.

Even sitting Indian National Congress MP Aujla and the SAD are demanding opening up trade through the ICP.

Sandhu is the second diplomat-turned-politician after Hardeep Puri, who suffered a defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar after Arun Jaitley’s fiasco in 2014, and hails from a wealthy family.

Sandhu’s grandfather Teja Singh Samundri was one of the founders of the SGPC and his father Bishan Singh Samundri was the first vice-chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Two-time state chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh defeated Jaitley to win the seat by more than 100,000 votes. At the time, he was with the Indian National Congress party and the state was ruled by a SAD-BJP coalition. Singh now belongs to the BJP.

Captain Singh resigned from his Amritsar seat ahead of the 2017 state assembly elections, and Aujla was fielded by the Indian National Congress in the by-election, defeating candidates from the BJP and AAP in a three-party contest and winning by a margin of more than 197,000 votes.

Amritsar is a Sikh-majority constituency, with over 60 percent of voters being Sikh. Since 1952, Amritsar has elected a Congress candidate 12 times and a BJP candidate four times, including Navjot Sidhu, who has been elected three times in a row.

The Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency has nine assembly constituencies, eight of which are represented by the AAP and one, Majita, by the Akali Dal.

Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats will go to polls on June 1. The results will be counted on June 4.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *