Backed by yoga guru Swami Ramdev, businessman Swaran Salaria is likely to trump Bollywood actor and three-time MP Vinod Khanna as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat.
The BJP central leadership is understood to have conveyed its mind to Khanna, who had unsuccessfully contested against Congress’ Partap Singh Bajwa in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls.
On Tuesday, Punjab Congress chief Bajwa was re-nominated as the party candidate for the Gurdaspur seat.
Besides banking on Ramdev’s support, 55-year-old Salaria has emerged as the saffron party’s front runner due to his active participation in the party’s affairs and winning the confidence of party cadres from villages as well as town during the past six years.
Salaria, who hails from Chauhana village of Bhoa assembly segment, is a member of the BJP’s National Executive for the second time, besides being the chairman of the Punjab State Commission for Protection of
Child Rights. What is turning the tide in his favour is Salaria’s rapport with the BJP cadres.
In the 2012 assembly elections, Salaria was in charge of Bhoa, Sujanpur, Pathankot and Dinanagar assembly seats, of which the BJP won three — it further pushed him towards the party leadership role.
His deep pockets, positive reports from the state BJP unit and his capacity to maintain close connections with the people are said to be some of the factors helping Salaria in elbowing out Khanna from getting the ticket again.
Party sources said it was in this backdrop that the BJP did not declare its candidate for the Gurdaspur seat while announcing the nominees for the Amritsar and Hoshiarpur seats last week.
From real estate to construction, the business empire of Salaria also includes a fleet of chartered aircrafts, helicopters, hotels, restaurant chains and famous Trig Company, which provides security service.
It is, however, learnt that BJP stalwart and former deputy prime minister LK Advani was in favour of giving another chance to Khanna.
Now, all eyes are set on the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting slated for March 19, where the final decision will be taken.