December 6, 1997
JALANDHAR, DEC 5: The Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Punjab might come under strain in case outgoing Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral decides to contest the coming mid-term poll from Jalandhar, which had elected him to the ninth Lok Sabha in 1989.
Although the ruling Akali Dal (Badal) has made repeated offers to Gujral to support his candidature from Jalandhar to express its gratitude for the largesse to Punjab, particularly Jalandhar, its partner, the BJP, has been reluctant to agree to the Akalis’ generosity towards Gujral. When Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made the offer for the first time a few months ago, BJP national vice resident Madan Lal Khurana, who is in-charge of Punjab affairs, had categorically stated that no decision to mark Jalandhar for Gujral had been taken by the Akali-BJP alliance. Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, addresssing a meeting of the BJP workers at Ludhiana on November 23, had endorsed Khurana’s views.
When the Akali-BJP government held a “thanks-giving rally” in honour of the Prime Minister at Jalandhar in October, the BJP as a party did not participate as its state president Daya Singh Sodhi did not turn up at the rally despite a seat being slotted for him. However, Balram Das Tandon of the BJP addressed the rally in his capacity as government minister.While both the Akali party and the BJP have been reiterating that their alliance would continue in the coming Lok Sabha poll, the BJP leadership is silent on supporting the candidature of Gujral from Jalandhar.
Political observers said if the BJP did not go along with its Akali partner in supporting Gujral, the latter would have to work hard to repeat his 1989 performance, notwithstanding the bounty he has showered on Jalandhar.
Gujral during his two visits to the city has given it India’s second science city, a Rs 25 crore grant for the medical institute, Rs ten crore for city drinking water supply and commitied funds for Punjab’s first technical unirvesity. He also sanctioned two flyovers for the city. The city residents are also aware that it was because of Gujral’s efforts as Indira Gandhi’s minister of information and broadcasting that Doordarshan kendra was set up in the city instead of at Amritsar where Punjab’s first television station was launched in the seventies.
Of the nine Assembly segments of the Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency, four are held by the Congress, three by the Akali Dal (Badal) and two by BJP.Jalandhar has been the traditional stronghold of the Congress, which has won nine of the 12 Lok Sabha elections, including one byelection, held from here so far. Besides Gujral, who won in 1989 with the joint support of the Akali party and the BJP, other two non-Congress candidates elected from Jalandhar had been Iqbal Singh Dhillon during the anti-Congress wave in 1977 when the Congress drew a blank in Punjab and Darbara Singh, who was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha last year. Both were elected on Akali tickets.
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