The BJP finally announced the name of one of its three Lok Sabha candidates in Punjab, naming former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri as the candidate for Amritsar.
Sources said the party has chosen a Sikh face in the hope that it would appeal equally to the large rural swath of the constituency who are said to be miffed with the Congress government in the state.
As reported first by The Indian Express in March, Hardeep Puri’s name had been recommended by the state core committee of BJP with local candidate Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina and Bollywood actor Poonam Dhillon.
Party insiders say that the names of candidates for Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur constituencies have also been finalised and will be announced in a day’s time. Sources said actor Sunny Deol has been shortlisted for Gurdaspur while sitting MP and union minister Vijay Sampla has been retained for Hoshiarpur.
Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency comprises eight Vidhan Sabha constituencies, of which seven are held by Congress MLAs. Only Majitha constituency is with the SAD and is represented by Bikram Singh Majithia.
The BJP is banking on its urban vote base in the five constituencies in Amritsar city, and the SAD voter base in Ajnala, Attari and Majitha for Puri to sail through. State BJP leaders maintain that Hardip Singh Puri will be an acceptable face for BJP voters as well as urban Sikhs predominantly from the trader community.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tarn Chugh, national secretary of the BJP and an Amritsar politician himself, said that Puri was the right choice for the holy city. “He is an internationally known figure who has represented India in the United Nations and has been all over the world as a diplomat. There is extensive anti-incumbency against Congress in the rural areas and people are waiting to teach it a lesson,” he added.
Asked about the “outsider” tag as Puri belongs to Delhi, Chugh said that Punjabis were spread all over the world including Canada and that nowhere were they outsiders now. “There is a massive Modi wave in the country and Punjab too will see its effect,” he said.
He added that the rural population of the state was in a mood to “teach Capt Amarinder Singh a lesson” because not only had he “not fulfilled promises made to them” but had also “discontinued or scaled down SAD-BJP govt initiatives like Atta Dal scheme and Shagun scheme”.