Just as the SAD-BJP combine thought it had a clincher in senior party leader Arun Jaitley from Amritsar, the Congress trumped it by announcing former chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh as its candidate, virtually taking the battle to the rival camp.
HT caught up with Jaitley on Saturday as he padded up for his poll debut in his hotel room-turned-war room. Excerpts:
This is your first Lok Sabha Poll, how do you feel as a candidate?
As a candidate, the only difference is from backseat driving I am now on the wheel. I am glad that I've been given this opportunity.
What do you think of your opponent Capt. Amarinder Singh?
Capt. Saab has come in as a reluctant candidate, a self confessed one. He has said he may not be able to do justice to Amritsar before or after elections. Now, since he is here, I wish him all the best. The test will be who is more qualified to be more powerful voice of Amritsar and Punjab at the Centre. I feel I am eminently qualified for that.
I am a Punjabi -- my father belonged to Lahore and mother was from Amritsar. Politically also, I am not new to Amritsar. In a way, I am more Amritsari than my opponent.
Amritsar has 64% Sikh votes and the Congress has a Sikh contestant.
I do not see my voters according to their religion. I see them as citizens of India, Punjab and Amritsar. I know their issues at the ground level and I am contesting to raise their issues and get them solved.
The CM projected you as the deputy PM.
I am not looking for any post. My politics is my commitment to the party and the people. Badal Saab and Punjab are looking for an important voice at the Centre and they have some hope in me. What position I get is secondary.
Your opponent Capt. Amarinder is known for his aggression. How will you match that in a high-pitch election?
Aggression is in ideas not merely in body language. In my parliamentary career, I have always maintained dignity but made the strongest attacks on the government. Language gives you the facility of being dignified yet aggressive. In parliamentary democracy, a charmed aggression is far more effective than a rude aggression.
With a strong opponent in Capt. Amarinder, will you not be tied down to Amritsar?
I will be spending a lot of time in Amritsar and simultaneously look after the national campaign. I will be going off and on to Delhi for party affairs. Moreover, information technology can help manage lot of things even while being away. Time management is my strength and I do use the social networking very prominently.
What was the compulsion of getting rid of sitting MP Navjot Sidhu?
There is no question of getting rid of Sidhu. He is an asset for our party. I tried to persuade him to contest from Amritsar or somewhere else and he was persuading me. He succeeded. He told me at present he is busy with the T20 world Cup. After it gets over, he will campaign.
Was Sidhu ignored because the Akalis did not want him?
I don't think it will be good to get into interpersonal battles of individuals. Politics is the art of possible. People have to be given responsibility in a given set up. The party is going to utilise Sidhu's services and talent effectively.
Was your entry into poll battle planned? Do you feel detached with voters while campaigning, as this hasn't been your kind of politics?
I have never planned my politics. Emergency was the turning point that strengthened my beliefs. Leaving law practice and becoming a full-time politician was also not planned. It all just happened. I don't feel detached. I am very much an Amritsari. All this while I had been asking votes for others, his time I will seek votes for myself.
Who do you think will win, Amarinder or you?
I am absolutely confident that I will win this election comfortably.