Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Gunning for Gurdaspur, attack and counter attack between Sunil Jakhar and Sunny Deol
Locked in a direct fight for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, both Sunil Jakhar (Congress) and Sunny Deol (BJP) are outsiders in the parliamentary constituency. They have a Jat pedigree to boast. But, the similarities end there. Their campaign styles are as contrasting as the ideology of the parties they represent.
As the high-stake slugfest turns fast and furious, Jakhar fired the first salvo, calling Deol a misfit in politics, and alluded to his rival’s recent Bollywood flops to question his poll plunge. But, the ‘Border’ hero, known for his bombastic dialogues, is holding back fire, at least for now. Sukhdeep Kaur caught up with Jakhar and Deol for quick-fire interviews. Excerpts:
‘Deol’s film career has crossed expiry date, so he chose politics’
You have been daring Sunny Deol to a debate on local issues. But, he is not game for it.
Forget local issues, he can at least say what he likes so much about Narendra Modi. He must have some view on GST or on India-Pakistan ties. How can he claim to be a political novice? His father Dharmendra was an MP. His stepmom, Hema Malini, is the MP from Mathura and is seeking a re-election. He wore a blue turban to Harmander Sahib and a saffron one when he filed his nomination papers. In the evening, he was sporting a cap during the roadshow. He is quite a politician as he is good at optics. I don’t change colours. Gurdaspur is not a stage and politics is not acting.
But Gurdaspur seems star-struck. His roadshows are drawing crowds.
As an actor, he is a known brand. But the product has to be delivered too. The only difference between the October 2017 bypoll and now is that my opponent has a star appeal. But even in Mumbai, where film stars live, people crowd them. The BJP is trying to keep him under wraps. They fear if he meets people, he will have to answer questions. His lack of knowledge will be exposed. All he says is: ‘Tagre ho jao, phatte chak deyo (Be strong, let’s bring the house down)’. He has a reserved nature. I think he is a misfit in politics. I don’t know if he is in politics due to his flop films but his film career has crossed its expiry date. If your movies don’t work, enter politics.
Why do you think the BJP brought Deol to fight you?
Because they want to silence every voice that speaks against them. I went gunning for Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal over sacrilege and police firing during the SAD rule. He has become my personal enemy. I have taken on the BJP in Parliament. I call them anti-Punjab. Now they are coming all guns blazing.
There seems to be a strong anti-incumbency against the Amarinder Singh government. In Gurdaspur, the Congress is divided.
The Captain government has done a lot in Gurdaspur. The common man still looks up to him. I got just a year and four months after the bypoll. Most projects are funded by the state. Each MLA and minister is doing his best. Partap Singh Bajwa too tweeted that it is Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s election, not that of Jakhar.
Will Gurdaspur vote on communal lines or star power?
Look at the candidates of the SAD-BJP in Punjab. They have not fielded a single Hindu face. The BJP is trying to sabotage the progress of the Kartarpur Corridor with warmongering. There were empty chairs at (BJP chief) Amit Shah’s rally held at a marriage palace where they could not put more than 4,000 chairs. People left before Deol spoke. The euphoria around him is fading. Much water has flown down the river Ravi since actor Vinod Khanna came here and won.
‘If my film career has expired that means I’m in politics full-time”
Why have you entered politics now?
You can’t keep criticising politicians and say why things are this way or that. There comes a time when you want to do something about it. I have wrapped up my son’s film. I want to see if I can be of any help. I have come with an open mind to serve people and resolve issues of farmers and children. I feel strongly for these two sections.
Your rival Sunil Jakhar says your film career has crossed its expiry date.
If it had crossed the expiry date, it means I will be in politics full time. I enjoy what people say about each other. Until I get into it, how will I know the issues.
Now that you have been campaigning for 10 days, what are Gurdaspur’s problems?
They are the same as in the country. Farmers are suffering. I want to know what can be done for them. In Punjab, youngsters are into drugs. We have to find a way out. Give children playgrounds. They must be motivated to take up sports as a profession. We need to see what kind of jobs can be created. How the younger generation can be skilled. Gurdaspur needs a good hospital. I can get things moving.
Being a border district, do you think the PM’s narrative on Balakot airstrikes creates fear of a looming war? It may cast a shadow over the Kartarpur Corridor?
When someone slaps you, slap them back. If you love our motherland, you have to retaliate. We are strong enough to do so. If things go wrong, you can’t sit back. What if they (Pakistan) invade us? Will we allow them to? As for Kartarpur, nothing has been done to cast a shadow. I will be the first to visit Kartarpur when the corridor opens.
If elected, how much time will you spend in Gurdaspur?
I love Punjab. I love the lush fields. Like all children, I used to come with my mother every year to her village in Punjab. I will buy a home in Gurdaspur and work out how much time I can spend here.
You gave a flurry of interviews today. Did the BJP kept you under the wraps so far?
Even as an actor, I hardly gave interviews. I don’t have the temperament. I try to stay calm. But at times, your temperament gets the better of you.
Your father Dharmendra has so far not shown up in Gurdaspur? Will Hema Malini campaign for you?
My father is down with flu and will come in a day or two. I don’t want to say anything on the other part.
How are you coping with the heat and dust of campaigning?
The schedule during shooting a movie is equally demanding. I don’t tire of working. I can’t mug up anything, not even film dialogues. I am dyslexic. So I had problems reading and writing. But I have a high IQ. It is over 160. I try to understand things that I believe in. Then I put my heart to doing it.