In 2014, Arun Jaitley lost the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, trailing behind then former chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh by more than a hundred thousand votes. Three years later, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, a relatively junior Congress leader, trounced the BJP’s Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina by 200,000 votes. This time, too, things aren’t looking bright for the BJP nominee, Union minister of state for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, who is struggling to find his political feet in this holy city.
Although he has a connection with Amritsar-his maternal grandfather was among the survivors of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre-observers say Puri is seen as an outsider. He is also dealing with turf wars within the Punjab BJP. State unit chief Shwait Malik doesn’t see eye to eye with former minister Anil Joshi, who holds sway over Amritsar North. And Chhina, denied a second shot at the polls, is unenthusiastic. Further, no big central leader has bothered to make an appearance in Amritsar so far, though there’s talk of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah dropping by.
Even the Shiromani Akali Dal, which failed in its promise to deliver Amritsar to Jaitley “on a platter” in 2014, is conspicuously absent.
Amid all this, Puri can only count on the ‘vision document’ he has drafted for Amritsar. “The time has come to elevate Amritsar in the collective imagination of Indians,” he says, while promising to make Amritsar a “global city”. His main opponent, Aujla, has been a familiar face for three decades. A grassroots politician, Aujla is often seen walking a few kilometres in the blazing summer sun to connect with voters.
In 2014, no one predicted that Amarinder will bring down Jaitley. It is a ‘lesser’ battle this time, but the outcome is still hard to foretell.