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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: No winnable local faces, BJP plays celebrity card in Gurdaspur

The BJP announced Deol’s candidature from the seat hours after he joined the party even as it took days to convince him to take the plunge as he was reportedly reluctant to join politics.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 24, 2019 14:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
lok sabha elections 2019,sunny deol joins bjp,bjp gurdaspur LS candidate
Actor Sunny Deol joined the BJP on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, and was declared the party candidate from the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

Having no local winnable face to pitch against sitting MP and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chose to field Bollywood actor Sunny Deol thinking his celebrity status may help it sail through.

The BJP announced Deol’s candidature from the seat hours after he joined the party even as it took days to convince him to take the plunge as he was reportedly reluctant to join politics. The BJP strategists were of the view that local contenders, including late MP Vinod Khanna’s wife Kavita Khanna, could not pose a serious challenge to the Congress candidate, it is learnt.

Swaran Salaria, the other contender for the ticket, was hardly in the reckoning after he lost the 2017 bypoll, necessitated by Khanna’s death, by over 1.82 lakh votes. Moreover, the celebrity card has worked well for the party in the segment. In 1998, when Vinod Khanna, who had no Punjab connection, was made the party candidate and he trounced six-time Congress MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder from the segment. He went on to win from the seat four times.

Senior leaders say, the move to field Deol, a Jat Sikh, also suits the caste calculations in the segment. Of a total of nine assembly segments in the Lok Sabha seat, five are dominated by Jat Sikhs whereas four are dominated by Hindus.

“Deol, a Jat Sikh, can work wonders for us in the segment dominated by Jat Sikhs. There were options to field other celebrities also but he fit the bill keeping in mind the caste calculations,” a senior party leader said.

Sitting MP Sunil Jakhar said, “I have been a fan of Dharmendra. I like Sunny Deol as an actor. I welcome him in Punjab and Gurdaspur. May the best man win.”

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 14:06 IST