Four-cornered competition witnessed in Amritsar

Tribune News Service

GS Pole

Amritsar, May 31

The political landscape in the city appears narrow ahead of India’s Lok Sabha elections, with four leading candidates vying for votes but the BJP seems to be leading with other parties following suit.

The Amritsar Lok Sabha seat is a stronghold of the BJP, which has fielded undefeated MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla for a third term. Aujla is banking on his track record and credibility to win three consecutive elections after winning the 2017 by-elections and the 2019 general elections by huge margins of 200,000 and 100,000 votes respectively.

Total voters: 16,08,795

Male: 8,44,208

Women: 7,64,524

Transgender: 63

Party vote share

  • 2014 Elections: Congress 47.94%, SAD-BJP% 37.74, AAP 8.2%
  • 2017 (Poll): Congress 50.09%, SAD-BJP 30.45%, AAP 14.78%
  • 2019 Elections: Congress 51.78%, SAD-BJP 40.19%, AAP: 2.34%

The presence of star Congress campaigners, including former AICC president and MP Rahul Gandhi, current AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge and MP Shashi Tharoor, gave impetus to Aujla’s cause.

At a rally in Amritsar on May 25, Rahul promised to waive farm loans and ensure MSP and crop insurance schemes if elected to power. Later, Aujla promised to take an unusual stand on the release of Bandi Singh (a Sikh political prisoner), a topic usually given much fanfare by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Meanwhile, the AAP, which already controls seven of the nine assembly seats in Amritsar, is putting its faith in its minister, Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal. Earlier considered a minor party due to its paltry vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, AAP now has real power in the state, putting its candidates in a slightly more comfortable position.

AAP national president Arvind Kejriwal and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann conducted a roadshow in Amritsar, giving a further boost to Dhaliwal’s campaign, and experts say the AAP’s promise of free electricity and improved infrastructure in the education and health sectors could work in Dhaliwal’s favour.

With the SAD and BJP failing to work together again, it will be a test if both the parties contest alone.Interestingly, the ‘pan-nationalist’ SAD has bet on BJP turncoat Anil Joshi, who has a Hindu face, while the saffron party has fielded former diplomat Taranjit Singh Sandhu.

The downside of both the SAD and the BJP is that despite being in a coalition government, they each had separate membership and vote bases in rural and urban constituencies. Both parties made little effort to build their rural and urban bases separately. If the two parties had worked together they could have achieved their goal but after the split, their votes got fragmented.

Still, Joshi is banking on the “achievements” he made during his tenure as Municipal Corporation Minister. Meanwhile, Sandhu is devising development plans to put Amritsar on the global map, citing his “international” connections. To counter this “outsider” label, he also added “Samundri” to his name as a “political suffix” to indicate his family’s connection to the Panth. His grandfather, Teja Singh Samundri, a founder member of the SGPC, played a key role in the Gurdwara reform movement against the colonial regime. The SGPC recognised his contribution to the Panth by naming its headquarters Teja Singh Samundri Hall. However, Sandhu was facing a tough time in the local constituency due to ongoing farm protests against the BJP candidate.

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