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In High Profile Amritsar Lok Sabha Seat, Candidates Line UP for Party Tickets

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | March 04, 2024 09:21 PM
Gurjeet Singh Aujla sitting MP Amritsar
Gurjeet Singh Aujla sitting MP Amritsar

By Satinder Bains

AMRITSAR: The race for the party ticket is on amongst the probable candidates in the high-profile Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency. As the Congress and Aam Adami Party’s alliance seems unlikely and the saffron BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) yet to decide about contesting upcoming parliamentary elections together, the ‘holy city’ looks to be heading for a four-cornered contest.

The constituency is largely a Congress’s bastion. The current Lok Sabha MP from seat Gurjit Singh Aujla who has won the seat twice in past, is the front runner for the party ticket. However he is facing a tough contender, former Deputy CM of Punjab Om Parkash Soni. Though Soni is Aujla’s political Guru and both have shared closeness, the two leaders are now on logger heads.

So high are the tempers that in near past the supporters of the two leaders have even indulged in verbal spats and scuffles last month. Seeing the rising tension, the Congress might drop in a surprise, bringing some new face as candidate to contest this time. The party is also weighing the caste and religious affiliations this time to select the candidate.

In the saffron Bhartiya Janta Party, which had won the seat in 2004, 2007 and 2012 thrice in row and constituency was represented by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. After him, the party has never been able to register its victory despite bringing in heavy weights including former Union Finance Minister late Arun Jaitley and present Union Minister Hardip Singh Puri. The party is weighing all options this time.

There is general dilemma before the party to field a local face or bank upon an outsider. The BJP is facing the people’s ire in the neighbouring Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency where incumbent MP Bollywood star Sunny Deol hardly visited the constituency in the last five years of his term in the parliament. The local leadership and party cadre are resentful that these celebrities and `outsiders’ hardly nurture their constituencies and appear only during the election time.

There is a general perception that these ‘para-troopers’ are hardly available to the voters and party had to face the resentment of the people. Amidst such scenario, the BJP is facing hurdles of fielding an `outsider’ despite the fact that former Ambassador to United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu is camping in the city and meeting BJP leaders and cadres, though he is yet join the BJP formally.

Another Sikh face and long time party loyalist Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina is emerging as the front runner in the race for the party ticket. He could be better choice because he is a Jat Sikh, a local well-known face and remained in the party during its tough times when many left and jumped loyalties. Former Rajya Sabha MP Shawet Malik and BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh are also in the race for the party ticket.

In the AAP, former Amritsar Mayor Karamjit Singh Rintu is the front runner for the party ticket. He had left the Congress and joined AAP during Punjab assembly elections in 2022. The Cabinet Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal or some outsider could also be the party’s choice as the AAP would never field any light eight in the crucial seat.

The SAD if it contest the elections on its own might field heavy weight Bikram Singh Majithia from the seat. Former Cabinet Minister Anil Joshi who had left BJP and joined Akali Dal might also be another choice for SAD if Majithia declines to contest this time.

In 1966 when the state of Punjab was re-organized after carving out Himachal and Haryana, Akali leader Bikram Majithia's grandfather Surjit Singh Majithia won from Congress ticket and became Minister in the Nehru government. The seat was represented by Durga Das Bhatia and then by his younger brother RL Bhatia who represented the seat five times.

It was in 1977 that Janata Party's Baldev Parkash won the seat with Akalis's help. Congress’s RL Bhatia won the seat in 1980 and repeated the victory in 1984 but he was defeated by Janata Party's Kirpal Singh in 1989. All these top leaders were local voice and Amritsar emerged as prominent voice in the arena of politics

Congress's RL Bhatia re-captured the seat in 1991 and again won in 1996 but again he was defeated by BJP's Daya Singh Sodhi in 1998. He won the seat again in 1999 but he was defeated by Navjot Singh Sidhu in 2004 and again in 2009. In 2014 Captain Amarinder won by defeating Arun Jaitley.

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