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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Harinder Khalsa’s entry sends BJP ticket aspirants into a tizzy

Harinder Singh Khalsa, the Fatehgarh Sahib MP, joined the BJP on Thrusday. The move has caused unease among those in the BJP who are vying to contest from Hoshiarpur and Amritsar Lok Sabha seats.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 29, 2019 12:44 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Harinder Singh Khalsa’s joining the BJP has reportedly not gone down well with the party’s state leadership.
Harinder Singh Khalsa’s joining the BJP has reportedly not gone down well with the party’s state leadership.(Sameer Sehgal / HT File )

Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa’s move to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday sent the state party leaders, particularly those seeking party tickets from the Amritsar and Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seats, into a tizzy.

Even before Khalsa, a scheduled caste and a suspended member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), joined the BJP, speculations were rife that he might be the party’s choice from the Amritsar constituency given the fact he has panthic credentials as he had quit the India Foreign Service (IFS) in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984.

Also, a new equation has emerged with a section in the party trying to project him as a strong probable from Hoshiarpur, a reserved segment, where the party is mulling to replace sitting MP and Union minister of state Vijay Sampla. Besides, fielding a Dalit from Amritsar may not bode well for the party as the seat is dominated by Hindu and Jat Sikh voters.

But Khalsa fits the bill from Hoshiarpur which is a reserved segment, said a Sampla group leader.

Till now, two-time Phagwara MLA and former IAS officer Som Parkash was the frontrunner from the seat as he has worked as the Hoshiarpur deputy commissioner for many years. In 2009, he had lost the Lok Sabha poll to the Congress’ Santosh Chowdhary by a thin margin of 366 votes.

But since Som Parkash and Sampla are political opponents, the Sampla group is now trying to convince the high command that if the party decides to replace the Union minister, Khalsa is the best bet. “The Sampla group will not like to see Som Parkash get the ticket as both the leaders have been at loggerheads for more than a decade,” said a party functionary not aligned with any group.

Also, Som Parkash emerged as a strong contender from the seat in the BJP’s internal surveys and it will be interesting to see if the party takes the risk of fielding the Fatehgarh MP from Hoshiarpur where the panthic factor hardly plays any role.

Khalsa’s joining the BJP has not gone down well with the party’s state leadership. Many leaders HT talked to admitted that it would not have any impact on the party’s poll prospects.

“Khalsa remained inactive as MP and hardly spoke in the Lok Sabha on any issue concerning Punjab. He hardly has any connect at the grassroots-level workers. As an MP, his performance was below average,” said a former BJP minister.

“Even as his (Khalsa’s) joining the party may have been seen as strategic in Delhi, but he is considered a spent force in Punjab and won previous polls only due to the AAP wave,” a former MLA said. Khalsa was not available for comments despite repeated attempts to contact him.

State BJP chief Shwait Malik said, “He is a two-time MP and had left the Indian Foreign Service in protest against Operation Bluestar. I welcome his decision to join the BJP.” About the chances of Khalsa being fielded from any seat, Malik denied having any information on this.

“Khalsa has already said he joined the party unconditionally,” Malik said.

Also Read | Lok Sabha elections 2019: Key players and issues in Punjab

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 12:44 IST