CHANDIGARH: While it's likely that Congress will field cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, in the prestigious Amritsar seat in the Lok Sabha elections, rival BJP is also on the lookout for a suitable candidate.
Those in the running to bag the BJP's Amritsar ticket include Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, state party chief Shawet Malik and former minister Anil Joshi.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the BJP's alliance partner in the state, had, over the last three months, tried to book the Amritsar seat. However, the BJP high command stepped in, making it amply clear that the party isn't open to giving up the prestigious constituency for its ally.
Lobbying for the prized ticket has already begun in the BJP ranks and buzz is that the party, this time, might pick a local face in a bid to wrest the seat from the Congress. Party heavyweight and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contested the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but lost.
History favours Congress, as the party has kept its hold on the seat for the longest time.
In 1977, the BJP scripted rare success in the constituency as Dr Baldev Parkash trumped his rivals in the fray. However, it turned out to be a de-facto Congress fief in the later years, as Raghunandan Bhatia was elected MP from Amritsar a record four times before he was dethroned by Sidhu, then a BJP nominee, in 2007. The cricketer-turned-politician later won two bypolls from the seat, emerging as a prominent Sikh leader. However, he had to sep aside for Jaitley in 2014.
However, Jaitley lost to Captain Amarinder Singh, the present chief minister.
In 2017, the Captain had to resign his Lok Sabha seat after being made the chief minister. In the by-election that followed, the BJP pitted Jat leader Chhina against Congress's Gurjeet Singh Aujla. However, faced with a strong anti-incumbency against the SAD-BJP combine, which ruled the state for 10 years, Chhina was up against it and eventually lost to Aujla.
However, he has his eyes on the ticket for a second time, this year. He is considered close to PM Modi and Jaitley and has emerged as a frontrunner.
Chinna was recently made a member of the BJP's manifesto committee, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
State BJP chief and Rajya Sabha member Shawet Malki is also willing to throw his hat into the ring. Sources close to him revealed that he is keen to be elected to the Lower House.
Joshi, who lost the last state elections, wants to try his luck again in the Lok Sabha polls. Local
orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Avtar Singh and former minister Dr Baldev Raj Chawla are also in the race for the Amritsar ticket.