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BJP to field Dara Singh, Hema?

If certain BJP leaders, including party?s high-profile general secretary Pramod Mahajan, have their way, the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab may turn out to be a total ?filmi? affair.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2004 14:07 IST

If certain BJP leaders, including party’s high-profile general secretary Pramod Mahajan, have their way, the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab may turn out to be a total ‘filmi’ affair.

According to sources, while state leaders are lobbying hard in Delhi for tickets, a section of party’s Central leadership, led by Mahajan, is in a mood to field actors-turned-politicians Hema Malini and Dara Singh for Hoshiarpur and Amritsar seats, respectively. With their party colleague and Union minister Vinod Khanna all set to contest the Gurdaspur seat for the third consecutive time, if the plan goes through, the trio of cine stars of yesteryears may prove a potent combination for the ruling Congress in the state.

According to a senior BJP leader, Mahajan is strongly in favour of fielding Hema and Dara Singh since he wants to ensure that the party wins the maximum number of seats on its own strength. With BJP national president Venkaiah Naidu setting a target of 300 seats for the party, winning ability of the candidates is going to be the sole criteria for allotment of tickets, the leader said.

The leader claimed that party’s internal surveys indicate that both Hema and Dara Singh are formidable candidates and with the backing of Akalis, they would certainly win. Sources said Dara Singh, who recently joined the BJP and Rajya Sabha, hails from Tarn Taran district and is the “strongest” candidate to fight Congress’ R.L. Bhatia from Amritsar.

Though an outsider to the state, Hema, who is also a new entrant to the BJP and Rajya Sabha, is not new for Punjab. Being the wife of Punjabi icon and muscleman of Hindi film industry Dharmendra, Hema entered Punjab’s poll arena in 1998 when she actively campaigned for Khanna in Gurdaspur.

Subsequently, she became a regular feature at Akali-BJP election rallies and sought votes on the plank of being “Punjab’s bahu”. Since Dharmendra hails from Sahnewal in Ludhiana district, she is being projected as a “winning” candidate from Hoshiarpur.

While it is still not sure whether the two cine stars would be fielded, their names are already causing lot of heartburn in the state leadership. “Vinod is already an outsider and with these two being imposed on us, the future of BJP is bleak in the state.”

A senior state leader claimed that the suggestion to field outsiders had been given to the BJP high command by Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal on the plea that there were no strong local candidates available with the party. The leader claimed that Badal had done so in order to weaken the local leadership of the party.

First Published: Mar 10, 2004 07:00 IST