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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Amritsar set for rare Sikh versus Sikh contest again

Barring 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll, the constituency has not witnessed an election wherein two Sikh nominees were in a direct contest with each other since 1967.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 23, 2019 09:36 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
BJP Candidate from Amritsar Lok Sabha Constituency Hardeep Singh Puri in Amritsar
BJP Candidate from Amritsar Lok Sabha Constituency Hardeep Singh Puri in Amritsar(HT File)
         

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announcing Union minister of state of housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri as its candidate from Amritsar, the Lok Sabha constituency is once again set for a rare contest on the seat wherein two Sikh faces are pitted against each other in a direct fight.

The Congress has already announced the candidature of sitting MP Gurjit Singh Aujla from the seat which has nearly 65% Sikh voters. Also, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded its Majha zone in-charge Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, a Sikh, from the seat.

Barring the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll, which was necessitated by the resignation of then state Congress president Amarinder Singh (now Punjab chief minister) as MP over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue in 2016, the constituency has not witnessed an election wherein two Sikh nominees were in a direct contest with each other since 1967.

In the 2017 bypolls, Congress’ Gurjit Singh Aujla defeated BJP nominee Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna, also a Sikh face by a margin of 1,99,189 votes.

Of a total of 19 contests, including three bypolls, in the parliamentary seat since 1952, the Congress won 12 while the BJP secured the seat only 5 times. Janata Party’s Baldev Prakash and independent candidate Kirpal Singh won from the seat in 1977 and 1989. In the 1967 election, Yagya Dutt Sharma, a candidate of the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s forerunner, managed to win from Amritsar.

After this, the BJP’s Daya Singh Sodhi, a Sikh face, secured the seat in 1998.

The seat was again wrested from the BJP in 1999 by the Congress’ Raghunandan Lal Bhatia. In 2004, the BJP fielded Navjot Singh Sidhu (now in Congress) made hat-trick by winning the 2007 (bypoll) and 2009 election on party ticket.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP fielded Arun Jaitley (now Union finance minister) from the segment against Congress’ Amarinder Singh who won by a margin of 1,02,770 votes.


A tough task at hand for Puri

A senior BJP leader said, “It will be a tough task for Puri, a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, as the announcement of his name of was made too late. He has less than a month’s time to campaign in the nine assembly segments of the Lok Sabha seat with Aujla in the thick of campaign for the last three months,” he said.

Also, of the nine assembly constituencies, the Congress won on eight in the 2017 assembly polls. Moreover, three state cabinet ministers have been campaigning for Aujla, making the task for Puri even tougher. Earlier, the state BJP leaders were expecting that the party high command will field a celebrity from the seat as the time for the campaign was less.

State party president Shwait Malik said, “Puri will come to Amritsar in a day or two. We have already started our campaign. The Congress is divided in Amritsar, which will benefit us.”