In a surprise move, the BJP on Saturday night declared Vijay Sampla, a prominent Dalit leader from the Doaba region, as its candidate from Hoshiarpur (reserved) parliamentary seat.
The choice stunned many in party circles as Phagwara MLA and chief parliamentary secretary Som Parkash was regarded as the favourite for the BJP ticket. In the 2009 parliamentary polls, Som Parkash had lost to Congress candidate Santosh Chowdhary from Hoshiarpur by a wafer-thin margin of 58 votes.
Sampla, presently vice-chairman of the Punjab Forest Development Corporation, has remained senior vice-president of the Punjab BJP unit.
The nomination of Sampla, a protege of BJP Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna, is being seen as a setback for the party faction led by state unit president Kamal Sharma, who was lobbying hard for Som Parkash.
Elated at getting the ticket, Sampla said he would leave no stone unturned to ensure his party's victory from the seat. He thanked the party high command for reposing faith in him.
His political career took off when he became the first Dalit sarpanch from Jalandhar district.
Of the 13 parliamentary seats in Punjab, three fall in BJP's quota (Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur) and the rest are with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). falls in BJP quota, For the Gurdaspur seat, the BJP is yet to choose between Bollywood star and former MP Vinod Khanna and businessman Swaran Salaria.
Arun Jaitley (61), Amritsar: Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Remained union minister for industries and commerce, and law and justice during the NDA rule from 1998 to 2004. His in-laws are based in Amritsar. With the BJP giving the ticket to Jaitley, alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal has ensured the 'tactical ouster' of sitting MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been criticising the ruling Badals for allegedly scuttling his pet projects for the holy city.
Vijay Sampla (52), Hoshiarpur: Chosen by the BJP over Phagwara MLA and chief parliamentary secretary Som Parkash. A Dalit leader, he has remained president of the Punjab BJP's Scheduled Caste (SC) Morcha. Presently, vice-chairman of the Punjab Forest Development Corporation. He started his political career as the sarpanch of Sampla village falling in Jalandhar cantonment.
Vijay Sampla, Hoshiarpur, Lok Sabha elections, Arun Jaitley, Amritsar