In the movies, adversaries used to tremble and take to their heels when Sunny Deol unleashed his “dhai kilo ka haath”. But the actor-turned-BJP MP has pulled a vanishing act on his constituents in Punjab’s Gurdaspur for almost two years now and this has not gone down well with either his party or his political opponents.
Deol — who defeated his current party colleague Sunil Jakhar, then with the Congress, in the 2019 general elections — has not visited Gurdaspur since September 2020 and the last time he tweeted about any political activity was on March 31, when he posted a photo of a meeting with Union minister Piyush Goyal. He claimed that at the meeting “issues related to employees of a woollen mill” in his constituency were discussed. The MP, however, neither campaigned for his party in the Assembly polls the month before nor did he turn up at the state Assembly on Monday to vote in the presidential election.
Deol was conspicuous by his absence in the Assembly poll campaign as he was among the 40 star campaigners of the party. The BJP performed poorly in the elections, with one of its two seats being Pathankot (state BJP president Ashwani Sharma won) that comes under the Gurdaspur constituency. At the time, the party had claimed that the Election Commission’s restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 third wave were why the MP was absent from the campaign trail. Though the BJP claimed that Deol would be available for the last leg of the campaign, he did not turn up. He also gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Pathankot a miss.
“Party leaders hope that Deol’s political career will end like his father Dharmendra’s and he will not return to claim a ticket in 2024. This will give a chance to local BJP leaders who were rejected last time as Sunny Deol parachuted in,” said a local leader who was in the race for the party’s poll ticket in 2019 but lost out to the actor.
Another BJP leader claimed Deol would not be fielded in two years’ time. “Even if he comes now once or twice, it will have no impact. The damage to the BJP has been done. The next BJP candidate will have to work double hard to mitigate the harm done by Sunny Deol. People love Prime Minister Narendra Modi but it will still be a difficult task for the next candidate after what Sunny Deol did to Gurdaspur.”
— Sunny Deol (@iamsunnydeol) October 12, 2019
Congress MLA and former state minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa hit out at the actor-turned-MP. Randhawa, whose constituency Dera Baba Nanak is part of the Gurdaspur parliamentary seat, said, “The people of Gurdaspur feel cheated as it seems they elected an invisible person to Parliament. He was never seen in the constituency. He did not turn up even for voting in the presidential election. It is clear that Sunny Deol is of no use to people as well as the BJP. They should recall him from Parliament and a by-election should be held to elect a new MP from Gurdaspur who can raise people’s issues. The people of Gurdaspur deserve to have a parliamentary representative.”
The Indian Express reached out to Deol’s representatives for a comment but did not receive a response. A party leader who counts himself as a Deol sympathiser said, “No one could have won this seat for the BJP except Sunny Deol. Sunil Jakhar is now in the BJP. He was in the Congress and was popular among both Hindus and Sikhs. It would have been a cakewalk for him had it not been for Sunny Deol. It is true that Deol needs to focus on the constituency.”
This is not the first time that Deol’s absence has been noticed in Gurdaspur. In June 2021, Youth Congress workers put up “missing person” posters with the MP’s photo. “Gumshuda ki talaash, MP Sunny Deol (Search for missing MP Sunny Deol),” read the posters.
ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਸਾਰਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਪਿਆਰ, ਸਤਿਕਾਰ ਅਤੇ ਆਸ਼ੀਰਵਾਦ ਲਈ ਧੰਨਵਾਦ
ਨਿੱਕੜਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਭਵਿੱਖ ਲਈ ਹੋਵੇਗਾ ਗੰਭੀਰ ਵਿਚਾਰ, ਸਿੱਖਿਆ ਸਿਹਤ ਦੀ ਸੰਭਾਲ ਸਮੇਤ ਮਿਲੇਗਾ ਸਭ ਨੂੰ ਰੋਜਗਾਰ @BJP4India @narendramodi @AmitShah @Akali_Dal_ @BJP4Punjab
Thanks for love,respect and admiration. pic.twitter.com/N7oqr14JBo
— Sunny Deol (@iamsunnydeol) May 17, 2019
“Sunny Deol did not enter Gurdaspur when people were facing the Covid-19 pandemic. He is busy making money in Mumbai. He has nothing to do with the public of Gurdaspur,” the Youth Congress said at the time.
A spokesperson for Sunny Deol refuted the accusation. The actor, who has appointed a personal assistant to ensure a “smooth flow of work” during his absence in the constituency, also dismissed the accusations. In a video uploaded on social media, he said his opponents were “talking nonsense” and added that “all of us are here for the people”.
“I want to tell the people that based on the trust they have placed in me, I have been doing a lot of things and will continue doing so. I will get bigger projects in future. Your trust is my strength,” he said.
In November 2021, Deol holidayed with his father in Himachal Pradesh and put up photos on social media. The hill state borders Gurdaspur but he did not visit his constituency on his way back to Mumbai.