Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley has fought several elections for his party as its ace strategist. But it's his own toughest battle yet that is opening a new dimension to his political style as he fights his first Lok Sabha election against Congress candidate Amarinder Singh in Amritsar.
Jaitely, 61, has shown since the start of his battle that he can be down-to-earth and take as much heat and dust as any other leader.
Beyond his wrangles with Amarinder Singh, Jaitley tries hard selling his dream plan to end Amritsar’s woes: jobless youths, dirty and broken roads, lack of proper street lights and sanitation, uncontrolled traffic and endless jams.
Jaitley minces no words to address concerns related to the drug menace among the youth, which locals blame on some ministers. His decision to buy a house here is to drive home the point that he’s here to stay long after the polls.
Be it at places close to the Wagah border where he addresses farmers or doctors and other professionals in the city’s Town Hall, Jaitley listens to people and then puts forth what he thinks can change Amritsar.
Unlike his opponents who target him, Jaitley tells his audiences that the city needs a new economic deal: opening up of the border trade, creation of a tourism hub, a robust manufacturing sector and extensive skill development to end joblessness among the youth.
“The region has not grown as an IT hub and the drug menace continues to grow unabated. There are no jobs because there is no manufacturing sector. That will change now,” he says.
Jaitley expects that with Akali support, the Sikh votes, forming 60% of the electorate, will come to the BJP. But it also means that Jaitley will have to work harder to win over the city folk who resent the Akali bigwigs’ apathetic attitude, said local BJP leaders.
Aiding Jaitley is his wife, Sangeeta, and daughter Sonali, who have pitched in to enthuse the BJP youth cadres. Sonali organises the youth connect while Sangeeta visits old Amritsar – where her grandfather once lived – and other areas to reach out to women. She tells even those who insist on voting for the AAP nominee, well known ophthalmologist Daljit Singh, that "there's so much to be done here. Don’t waste your vote."