THOUGH THE BJP is yet to decide its candidate for Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, nomination of Pawan Kumar Bansal by Congress is fuelling speculations that the party might pit his traditional rival, Satya Pal Jain, against him. The two titans have been sparring at the hustings for last 28 years, with a score of 3-2 in favour of Bansal.
The two lawyers, who started their political career as student leaders, fought their maiden Lok Sabha battle in 1991, in which Jain lost to Bansal. But Jain avenged his defeat in the very next elections in 1996. Two years later in the mid-term polls of 1998, it was again Jain versus Bansal with Jain emerging victorious.
In 1999, Jain was denied the ticket due to opposition from within his own party and Krishan Lal Sharma was fielded against Bansal, who won the seat for the second time.
Even in the 2004 and 2009 elections, it was Bansal versus Jain, with Bansal emerging victorious both times. The second consecutive defeat was such a shocker to Jain’s eldest brother, Satya Bhushan Jain, that he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
In 2014, when NaMo wave gripped the nation, the BJP paradropped Kirron Kher into the poll battlefield and she won by a margin of around 70,000 votes, while the newbie Aam Aadmi Party ate into the Congress vote bank.
Even today, old-timers in the saffron party continue to root for Jain even though BJP chief Sanjay Tandon and MP Kirron Kher are frontrunners for the ticket. Bal Krishan Kapoor, 85-year-old former general secretary of the BJP, declares, “If there is someone who can give a tough fight to Bansal or understand his way of operating, it is Jain. He also caters to the Agrawal community, to which the Congress candidate belongs. Moreover, I feel they both have a lot of similarities— both are advocates, articulate and soft spoken,” Kapoor said.
A study by The Institute for Development and Communication found that the urban population in Chandigarh is 97.25 per cent, while the rural population is only 2.75 per cent(as per census 2011). However, the rural and slum votes, together account for around 50 per cent of total votes in the city.