Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll a test for Punjab leaders
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose stakes are high as this Hindu-majority seat has become their stronghold with Vinod Khanna, whose death led to this bypoll, had won it four times since 1998.punjab Updated: Oct 04, 2017 10:03 IST
With the central leadership of the three main parties contesting the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll abstaining themselves from campaigning, the October 11 election has become a test of abilities of the state leaders of the Congress, the BJP-SAD and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose stakes are high as this Hindu-majority seat has become their stronghold with Vinod Khanna, whose death led to this bypoll, had won it four times since 1998. Party’s candidate and influential businessman Swaran Singh Salaria, who shares a personal rapport with many in the top brass of the BJP, had requested some senior leaders to address a “big rally anywhere in the last leg” of campaigning, but that did not bear fruit, sources said.
At one rally venue, the BJP had gathered crowds claiming that Union finance minister Arun Jaitley would come, but he didn’t.
“Punjab is not on the priority list of the party for now. Moreover, the national leadership generally avoids campaigning for bypolls,” said a state-level top leader. “There were reports that Union home minister Rajnath Singh may come to address a rally as Gurdaspur has a large number of voters from the Rajput community that he belongs to — as does Salaria — but he is not coming either.”
Parkash Singh Badal, as per SAD sources, is unlikely to campaign citing health reasons.
Lacking a charismatic leader in the state, the BJP is largely banking on the SAD, led by Sukhbir Badal and former minister Bikram Majithia. But former CM Parkash Singh Badal may not show up too.
“We have decided not to hold big rallies in these polls and that is why the need of central leaders was not felt,” claimed BJP’s state affairs in-charge Prabhat Jha, adding, “On October 7, we are going to organise a meeting of booth-level workers likely to be addressed by the party’s national organisational head Ram Lal. We are trying to check if the finance minister (Jaitley) can be available to address a rally.”
Parkash Singh Badal, as per SAD sources, is unlikely to campaign citing health reasons. “At most, he may give one day,” said a leader.
The Congress, too, is not inviting any central leader as state ministers are campaigning too. CM Capt Amarinder Singh has visited the segment twice tom seek votes, and is scheduled to conclude at a rally on October 9, the last of campaigning. “Who is more charismatic than Amarinder Singh in Punjab?” a top leader quipped.
For the AAP, state unit chief Bhagwant Maan and leader of opposition in the assembly Sukhpal Khaira are leading the charge. “It takes at least three days to gather crowds for a rally. We have planned not to waste time on such shows and have decided to do door-to-door campaigning only,” said Khaira.