Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP’s Hardeep Puri takes Kartarpur corridor to woo Sikh voters
Hardeep Singh Puri, the lone turbaned Sikh in the Union cabinet, may be contesting his maiden election but as the BJP candidate, he is striking the right notes, and balance, to win over voters of the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency that goes to the polls on May 19.
Campaigning in a constituency with 65% Sikh voters, Puri lists the opening of the Kartarpur corridor to Pakistan; justice for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots; and exemption of the goods and services tax (GST) on langar items served at Golden Temple, as achievements of the Narendra Modi government.
Puri, 66, hit the campaign trail in Amritsar from April 25, four days after he was chosen by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance to fight from Amritsar, which is home to the supreme temporal seat of Sikhism. He is pitted against Congress’ Gurjit Singh Aujla, who won the 2017 Lok Sabha byelection by defeating BJP’s Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina with a margin of 2 lakh votes.
A 1974-batch Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officer, Puri has been holding public meetings across the constituency daily. While addressing the 25% voters in Hindu-dominated areas of the border constituency, he deftly shifts focus to the issue of national security.
Having roots in Delhi, the Union minister of state for housing and urban affairs may be the BJP’s parachute candidate, but he is leaving no stone unturned to make Amritsar his home. His wife, Lakshmi, is also camping and campaigning with him after the couple bought a house in Shastri Nagar recently.
Addressing a rally in Sikh-dominated Amritsar South, Puri says, “The Centre has formed a committee led by home minister Rajnath Singh to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. There were many recommendations, including making Sultanpur Lodhi town a smart city, establishing chairs in Indian and foreign universities for study and research on the first Sikh Guru and opening the Kartarpur corridor. On the basis of the recommendations, our government approved the building and development of the corridor.”
“Due to the efforts of the BJP government, the corridor is becoming a reality. But Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has wrongly been claiming credit. I would like to remind Sidhu that the issue of opening the corridor has been raised by the BJP and the SAD since 1999 when the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal visited Lahore. During the discussion in Lahore, Badal strongly demanded opening the corridor.”
Referring to the arrest of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, Puri says: “It was Prime Minister Modi who formed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe antiSikh riots in 1984. After the SIT’s report, families of those killed in the riots finally got justice and the accused were convicted.”
Puri lauds the SAD-BJP alliance for waiving GST on food items used for langar (community kitchen) at the Golden Temple. “Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had written to the Union cabinet to waive GST on langar. Considering her request, the Union cabinet, including me, had exempted the items from GST. However, outgoing Congress MP Aujla is trying to take credit for this.”
Addressing a rally in Amritsar West on Tuesday night, Puri focuses on national security.
“On November 26, 2008, terrorists entered Mumbai and killed about 300 innocent people. The Congress government at the Centre didn’t act against the neighbouring country. In 2016, however, the BJP government launched a surgical strike against militant launch pads across the Line of Control after the attack on an army camp in Uri. Our government also took action after the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Indian soldiers were killed. The Indian Air Force entered 85 km inside Pakistan and destroyed the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which claimed responsibility for the attack,” Puri said.