In what brought a deep sense of disappointment amid euphoria in the BJP camp, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley Friday lost to the Congress party’s Amarinder Singh by about 1.02 lakh votes from the hotly-contested Amritsar seat. While it is unlikely that this will have any bearing on his standing or stature in the party, the results did bring out the huge anti-incumbency wave against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) regime in Punjab, which could not be neutralised even by the Modi wave that swept the country.
Asked by the party to make his electoral debut from Amritsar, Jaitley put up a spirited fight against Singh and looked serious about staying on in the constituency even post-elections as he bought a house there.
The SAD, which had assured full support to Jaitley, however, failed to deliver. Given that Singh remains the most popular face of the Congress in Punjab, and the fact that the ruling party at the Centre had allocated its best resources to defeat the senior BJP leader, Jaitley did give him a run for his money until the end.
BJP sources said Jaitley’s loss made “no difference whatsoever” in the larger scheme of things as the lawyer and orator’s core strength was his organisational skill and his ability to formulate and execute the party’s strategy across the country.
That the electoral victory or loss would not make any difference to his stature was evident from the fact that he was one of the three party leaders who Modi had called to Ahmedabad for consultations ahead of the announcement of results. Jaitley is likely to get one of the top four portfolios in the Modi government, sources said.
“It was a challenging seat, we always knew. There appeared to be some local factors which were creating an adverse (mood). There were some local factors but we thought we might make it,” Jaitley said on Friday.
“There is always disappointment when you don’t win. I am delighted at a BJP victory so large that my own defeat looks like a drop in the ocean. So it really doesn’t matter,” he added.
He was one of the first to congratulate Singh on his victory.