Despite fielding Sikh faces, rural segments dealt decisive blows to BJP - Hindustan Times
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Despite fielding Sikh faces, rural segments dealt decisive blows to BJP

By, Chandigarh
Jun 09, 2024 06:28 AM IST

Gains from the urban segments quickly vanished in the rural areas as the saffron party failed to open its account in Punjab

Even after the induction of several Sikh faces and the turncoats into the party, the BJP’s drubbing in rural areas of the state saw it lose at least three Lok Sabha seats of Patiala, Ludhiana and Ferozepur by a narrow margin.

Sikhs have been at the centre stage of the political discourse of the BJP in Punjab ever since the Prime Minister decided to withdraw the three controversial farm laws in 2021
Sikhs have been at the centre stage of the political discourse of the BJP in Punjab ever since the Prime Minister decided to withdraw the three controversial farm laws in 2021

Anger against the party in the rural areas, especially among the Sikhs, was so high that on these three Lok Sabha seats, even after winning a fair amount of assembly seats, party candidates failed to take the overall lead and lost.

Sample this: In Patiala, Preneet Kaur won Dera Bassi, Rajpura and Patiala Urban assembly segments and stood second in Patiala Rural. She got the lead of around 60,000 votes from these constituencies.

However, she finished third after polling fewer votes in Samana, Shutrana, Nabha and Ghannaur. In Ghannaur, she could get only 14,764 votes. Congress’ Dr Dhramvira Gandhi eventually won the seat by a margin of 16,618 votes.

Similar was the story in Ludhiana, where BJP’s Ravneet Bittu won five of the six assembly segments in the urban areas. Bittu won Ludhiana East, Ludhiana South, Ludhiana Central, Ludhiana West and Ludhiana North Assembly segments with a margin of 9,537, 4,396, 17,295, 14,535 and 22,310 votes, respectively.

Even after getting a lead of 68,073 votes, Bittu couldn’t win because the party was routed in the rural segments of Dakha, Gill and Jagraon.

In the Dakha assembly segment, Bittu polled just over 7,524 votes and in Jagraon just 12,138 votes. Ultimately, Bittu lost to Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring by 20,942 votes.

In Ferozepur as well, BJP’s Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi finished third but led in the Abohar assembly constituency by a margin of 32,526 votes. He also led the Balluana Assembly constituency by a margin of 16,082 votes and won from Ferozepur City by around 1,200 votes. However, Rana, who represented the Guru Har Sahai segment four times as a Congress nominee before joining the BJP, could only manage 12,622 votes. Rana ultimately stood third and lost by a margin of 11,529 votes.

Interestingly, all these leaders who lost by a narrow margin were Sikh faces who shifted from the Congress in recent times. Rana Sodhi joined the BJP ahead of the 2022 assembly polls, while Bittu and Preneet joined the saffron party just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Rana Sodhi, when contacted, admitted that Sikh-dominated areas hesitated in supporting the BJP.

“However, in my area, I did not face any farmer protests but yes, where Sikhs were dominating we got only a few votes. As far as the response in Guru Har Sahai is concerned, I left the constituency two and half years back to contest the 2022 assembly polls from Ferozepur. I was not in touch with people in this area. Moreover, my brother, who used to nurture this constituency with me, passed away just days ahead of the polls. BJP has polled more Sikh votes when compared to the 2022 assembly polls,” Rana asserted.

Bittu on the other hand pegged his loss to farmers’ protests.

“We could not get votes in villages (rural areas) as farmers disrupted our campaign. These unions, under a sinister design, made an atmosphere that BJP is anti-Sikh and anti-farmers and incited people to vote against us,” Bittu said after the loss.

Sikhs have been at the centre stage of the political discourse of the BJP in Punjab ever since the Prime Minister decided to withdraw the three controversial farm laws in 2021. BJP had been claiming that whatever PM Narendra Modi has done a lot for the Sikhs, be it the opening up of the Kartarpur Corridor, celebrating ‘Veer Bal Diwas’ at the national level, waiving off GST on langar at the Golden Temple or deleting blacklist of Sikhs settled abroad.

Within the BJP also questions are being raised over the performance of ‘outsiders’ inducted in the party.

“Only a booth-level analysis will show the voting pattern of Sikhs and rural areas. But one thing is sure that those who came into the party just days before the polls and contested could not involve the senior leadership of the party effectively during the campaign and resultantly we missed out on three seats,” said Harjit Grewal, BJP’s Sikh face and national executive member.

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