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BJP’s pick for Gurdaspur LS bypoll: Baba and the bucks swing it for Salaria

Salaria was not always with the BJP. He hopped onto the saffron bandwagon only in 2009 after the Congress denied him ticket for the Lok Sabha elections.

punjab Updated: Sep 21, 2017 20:40 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Swaran Singh Salaria,Gurdaspur elections,Baba Ramdev
Swaran Singh Salaria shares personal ties with yoga guru ‘Baba’ Ramdev.(Facebook)

Controversies have always surrounded Swaran Singh Salaria, but his deep pockets and connections have never let that affect his ascendence, leading in the latest to the BJP ticket from his home segment of Gurdaspur for the October 11 Lok Sabha bypoll.

Now a Mumbai-based businessman, he is a native of Chohana village of Gurdaspur district and a Rajput face among Hindus, who have a slightly higher population than other communities in the constituency. He owns the Trig Guard Security Firm that provides services to top actors too; and owns an aviation company and hotels.

To back that up to build up his political capital, he shares personal ties with yoga guru ‘Baba’ Ramdev and sources in the BJP said the godman-cum-retail giant played a big role in ensuring the ticket for him. As the moneybags for the party, Salaria is close to some senior leaders who used to use Salaria’s choppers quite often in previous elections.

‘Sharabi’ slur

He was not always with the BJP. He hopped onto the saffron bandwagon only in 2009 after the Congress denied him the ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. By 2014, he had become a claimant for the BJP ticket, but the party preferred its old warhorse, actor Vinod Khanna, who had won in 1998, 1999 and 2004, and won 2014 too. Khanna’s death in April this year necessitated the bypoll.

Salaria had in 2014 not only opposed the ticket to Khanna but even announced to file nomination papers as an independent but eventually decided to support the BJP on the persuasion of senior leadership.

As the BJP announced his candidature on Thursday afternoon, social media witnessed news channel videos from 2014 going viral in which Salaria is seen speaking against Khanna and terming him a “sharabi” (drunkard).

College row

Salaria has seen controversies in his personal and business life too. In December 2014, he was charged with rape by a Mumbai-based women who was living in Salaria’s apartment in Santa Cruz since 1982. The FIR was later cancelled as the accused withdrew the complaint.

In Punjab, Salaria is chairman of Chintpurni Medical College situated in Pathankot that has made news for all the wrong reasons ever since it came into existence in 2011. Its first batch had to be shifted to other colleges after the Medical Council of India raised objections over facilities. On September 7 this year too, the Punjab and Haryana high court observed that the college has a “chequered history” and ordered to shift the 2014-15 batch to other colleges.

Salaria had announced to take over another controversial institute, Gian Sagar Medical College situated in Banur that was facing closure because of financial crunch, but he later withdrew.

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 20:40 IST