The RSS backing and his proximity to union home minister Rajnath Singh has paved the way for Hoshiarpur MP Vijay Sampla to the union ministerial berth.
A protege of Rajya Sabha MP Avinash Rai Khanna, Sampla has been a low-profile leader who started his political journey from being a sarpanch of his native village Sofi near Jalandhar.
In order to give representation to the Punjab BJP in the union ministry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has preferred Sampla over the strong candidature of Avinash Rai Khanna and Gurdaspur MP Vinod Khanna.
Sources said the high command had tried to do a balancing act in the party hit by factionalism as Sampla hailed from the camp opposed to state party chief Kamal Sharma.
Even while selecting the Lok Sabha election candidate from Hoshiarpur, the leaders from the Sharma camp did not want ticket for Sampla but for Phagwara MLA and chief parliamentary secretary Som Parkash.
Sources said Avinash Rai Khanna and party’s state organisation secretary Ajay Jamwal had lobbied for the ministerial berth to Sampla.
Life full of struggle
Born in an ordinary Dalit family that used to struggle for making ends meet after Sampla’s father died when he was 14, Sampla initially worked as a labourer in Jalandhar before moving to the Gulf to work as assistant to a plumber from 1992-97.
A matriculate, Sampla on his return started a cement shop and joined the BJP when the party was the last option for the Dalits of Punjab. In 1998, by being elected sarpanch of Sofi village, he became the first Dalit sarpanch of the BJP from Doaba.
An RSS activist, he has also remained chairman of the state khadi board and vice-chairman of the State Forest Development Corporation. He was denied ticket for the 2012 assembly polls. In the Lok Sabha election, Sampla defeated Congress stalwart Mohinder Singh Kaypee by 13,582 votes.