ONLOOKERS CALLED it a wedding without a groom when the Bharatiya Janata Party flagged off its campaign rath yatra this morning without announcing its candidate from the city. Sitting Member of Parliament Kirron Kher was also conspicuous by her absence at the event.
Two chariots displaying the achievements of Modi government were flagged off by in-charge of Chandigarh region and Haryana minister Captain Abhimanyu. While Kher’s absence became the topic of discussion at the gathering, the MP said she had already informed the party leaders about her inability to attend the event. “I had told them that I won’t be able to attend as I had two meetings in people’s houses this morning,” she said.
City BJP chief Sanjay Tandon and former Member of Parliament Satya Pal Jain were present at the event. A party office-bearer, on condition of anonymity, criticised Kher’s absence. “At a time when all of us have to put up a united front, she should have shown up even if only for a few minutes. Sparing five minutes for an official function is not too much to ask.”
When asked about Kher’s absence, city BJP vice-president Ramvir Bhatti said, “I called her up but she said that she has her programmes scheduled.” A member of Kher’s camp stated that people from the Tandon camp are intentionally making an issue out of her absence.
“It is out of mischief that they are trying to create an issue out of this absence even when Ma’am (Kher) had informed them well in advance that she already had meetings scheduled at someone’s place and it won’t look good to cancel those at the last minute,” he said.
Earlier, Captain Abhimanyu, when quizzed about the candidate from the city, said, “It is kamal ka phool that will be getting the ticket and winning from Chandigarh.” When asked about Kher’s absence, he said the programme was planned at a short notice. He said Kher already had her public meetings scheduled and every party worker is working for elections at this time.
A highly placed source in the party said a third survey conducted among Chandigarhians had found that while Kher did have an edge over other candidates due to her celebrity status, she lacked the local connect, which was the USP of city BJP chief Sanjay Tandon. He said it had become important for the party to take the local connection into consideration after Congress fielded Pawan Bansal, a four-time MP from the city.
Meanwhile, sources in the Congress camp said they want Kher to be fielded as they consider her a weak contestant as compared to Bansal. ‘’She still has the outsider tag attached to her,’’ they said.
THE chariots are equipped with LED panels, which play videos about the achievements of the Modi government. The chariots will travel through colonies, villages, and markets of Chandigarh to reach the masses. Speaking on the occasion, Captain Abhimanyu said: “The achievements of the Modi government have set a new record of development. There is a positive sentiment among the citizens after a decade.”