The BJP, which is contesting the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is facing teething problems in all three seats-- Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur--allotted to the party.
In Amritsar, the BJP has fielded senior leader Arun Jaitley against former Punjab Chief Minister and erstwhile Patiala royal Amarinder Singh. However, sitting MP and former Team India member Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was initially not too keen on making way for Jaitley, is conspicuous by his absence at the BJP’s campaign rallies in the district.
Also, the fact that the Jaitley juggernaut has not drawn the kind of response expected by the party in the two Assembly segments, from where Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur and Anil Joshi are MLAs, has proved a spot a bother to the BJP top brass. Curiously, Jaitley’s candidature has evoked a tremendous response in the Assembly segments,which had voted for the SAD legislators.
With BJP national executive member Swaran Salaria, who has been denied party ticket from the Gurdaspur, likely to contest as an independent, the saffron party may well find the going tough there, as well.
Sources close to Salaria said he is likely to file his nomination papers as an independent today (on Wednesday). If he does indeed file the papers then it will pose a major headache for BJP’s official candidate and yesteryear Bollywood star Vinod Khanna since there is already dissidence in the local unit against Khanna. State Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa is the Congress candidate here. According to Salaria, a Mumbai-based business tycoon hailing from Chauhana village in Gurdaspur, “Anything can happen. I have not decided over it yet. It would become clear in a day or two”.
He, however, added that he had spent the last five years serving the constituency and its people on behalf of the BJP and “had hoped to get the ticket”.
Meanwhile, state BJP chief Kamal Sharma said, “The issue will be resolved amicably. It is communication gap and nothing else.” Even though Sharma had summoned Salaria for a meeting on Tuesday, he failed to show up.
Similarly BJP candidate in Hoshiarpur, Vijay Sampla has the backing of the SAD MLAs, but a former Cabinet Minister and party MLA as well as a few others are working against him, sources said.
Across the political divide, it is not going to be a cakewalk for Bajwa too, as the party workers are a disgruntled lot. Ever since Bajwa took over as PPCC chief, Gurdaspur had become a major talking point in the political circles here. And the fact that Bajwa and Khanna are at loggerheads has further raised the stakes. AAP candidate Sucha Singh Chotepur is unlikely to be a pushover.