With former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh all set to take on BJP’s Arun Jaitley in Amritsar, odds are in his favour. Though a Sikh-dominated constituency, Amritsar is where main political parties have always preferred fielding Hindu candidates in the Lok Sabha elections in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The Congress had a formidable candidate in RL Bhatia, who won the seat six times. The BJP, then Jan Sangh, did not have any prominent Sikh face in its ranks. In 1977, the BJP fielded Dr Baldev Parkash, who defeated Bhatia. Post-1989, there’s clear edge to Sikh candidates in a direct contest against Hindus.
Bhatia, a former governor and union minister, lost to Chief Khalsa Dewan president Kirpal Singh, an independent in 1989.
Kirpal Singh becase the second Sikh to enter the Lok Sabha from Amritsar after former union minister Surjit Singh Majithia in 1952, 1957 and 1962.
In 1991 and 1996, the Congress and the BJP reposed faith in Hindu candidates. In 1991, Bhatia beat Baldev Parkash and in 1996 Dr Baldev Chawla.
In the 1998 BJP wave, the party pitted shopkeeper Daya Singh Sodhi against Bhatia. Unfancied Sodhi beat the Congress stalwart by more than 1-lakh votes.
However, his non-performance as MP cost him the seat in 1999. He lost to Bhatia.
The BJP brought in cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu as Sikh face in 2004. He defeated Bhatia by more than 1-lakh votes, quit after his conviction in a roadrage case, and after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction, won the by-election in 2007 by 67,000 votes, defeating Surinder Singla, a Congress Hindu candidate. In 2009, he beat OP Soni, another Hindu face of the Congress by a thin margin.