NEW DELHI: The BJP’s loss in Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll by nearly two lakh votes has seemingly stunned party leaders. That the BJP top brass handed over party nomination to Mumbai based businessman Swaran Singh Salaria ostensibly due to patronage of Baba Ramdev at the expense of party workers is being seen as singular reason for saffron rout in a constituency long seen as party bastion.
The BJP was estimating that the contest would be tough and evenly matched between Salaria and the Congress nominee Sunil Jakhar, who had been carrying the tag of an outsider. “Gurdaspur had been represented by actor turned politician Vinod Khanna for four terms. The party surely erred in choosing Salaria for the constituency by denying the nomination to Kavita Khanna, who had been nursing the constituency on behalf of her husband. The party workers were not enthused for a businessman bagging the ticket. Gurdaspur has a message for the upcoming elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat as well,” said a senior BJP functionary.
The ripple effect of the saffron rout in Gurdaspur has seemingly spread to Himachal Pradesh where the faction-fighting within the BJP has reportedly deepened. “A few of the sitting MLAs of the BJP have got the winds of the party mulling the move to deny them tickets in a bid to promote young leaders. These MLAs have flocked to either former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal or Shanta Kumar. If they are denied tickets, there is every possibility that they will turn rebels and contest elections,” sources in the BJP told Express.
While no top ranking national BJP leaders campaigned in Gurdaspur bypoll in line with the party strategy to avoid limelight on them, sources said that the strategists had been working till a night before the polling on rebel Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Sucha Singh Chhotepur. “While a top BJP leader met Chhotepur a couple of days before the polling, former deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal too visited him to ensure that he supported the BJP. However, the poll verdict shows that the AAP was not at all a factor, and the BJP nominee could not put up even a dignified contest. Such a massive rejection of the BJP nominee is a cause of concern, which requires urgent examination by senior leaders,” sources added.
With the early leads having already indicated that the BJP was nowhere in the contest in the Gurdaspur bypoll, sources said the Dhumal camp in Himachal Pradesh went into an overdrive holding parleys with supporters to ensure that the top brass of the party doesn’t take any hurried decision on the issue of the chief ministerial candidate in the hilly state.