Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) might have put all speculations to rest by announcing its senior leader, Gian Chand Gupta, as the candidate for the Panchkula seat, but the party still has an uphill task of consolidating resentment among the others who were in the fray.
Though a long-time serving member of the BJP as well as the RSS, Gupta had shifted the base of his political career from Chandigarh to Panchkula in 2002. A former Chandigarh Mayor, Gupta had spent 30 years of his life working for the BJP unit in Chandigarh. It was here that he shared affinity with Narendra Modi, who was then the BJP North In Charge.
Gian Chand’s name was among the three names forwarded by the state BJP for the Panchkula seat, the other two being another senior leader, Shyam Lal Bansal, and district BJP president, Vishal Seth.
While Seth was learnt to have opted out of the race, Bansal, with the advantage of being a local leader, was the closest contender for the ticket.
Significantly, both Gupta and Bansal had contested the Vidhan Sabha elections earlier and faced defeat.
Bansal had contested the elections twice-1996 and 2002-when Panchkula was part of the Kalka constituency. Gupta, on the other hand, had contested the 2009 Assembly elections from Panchkula constituency, and was defeated by 13,475 votes.
“I had contested the elections when Panchkula was part of Kalka. Though we had a lead in Panchkula, we could not gain much in Kalka. Moreover, I had fought the elections against former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s son, Chander Mohan. I’m also strongly rooted in the Aggarwal community,” said Bansal, while talking to Newsline. “But the party has made its decision clear. We accept it,” he added.
Meanwhile, Randhir Saini, whose large-size posters and banners are still seen on many roundabouts of the city, was among the other local leader who was in fray for the ticket. Saini, who was banking on his strong connect with rural voters, said the BJP had suffered because of low vote share from villages, but said he hoped that the Modi wave would help the party win. “We welcome the party’s decision,” added Saini.
Though tight-lipped, most of these local leaders are apparently feeling the pinch of giving preference to a relative outsider. “A large section of people, especially the business community of Chandigarh, is rooted in Panchkula, and they know about the work I did. So, there’s nothing like being a ‘non-local’. And, I have already contested elections once,” said Gupta.
He added, “Many workers want to contest the elections, but the party considers everything before taking a decision. I’m not superior or more wise, but it is the party’s call, and we all will abide by it,” said Gupta, when questioned about any resentment in the party over tickets.