BJP struggles to reclaim Amritsar after Sidhu’s exit.

Since the tenure of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as its MP from Amritsar ended in 2014, three parliamentary elections have taken place but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to reclaim the seat.

Before joining the Congress in January 2016, Sidhu had represented the seat thrice (from 2004 to 2014) on a BJP ticket. Prior to this, the BJP had won this seat once in 1998 when Daya Singh Sodhi defeated Congress’ five-time MP RL Bhatia.

To grab this seat, the saffron party introduced Sidhu who toppled Bhatia in 2004. In the parliamentary bypoll held in 2007, he defeated Congress Surinder Singla and then OP Soni in 2009. BJP’s vote share in these three elections was 55.38 percent, 50.6 percent and 48 percent, respectively.

However, the vote share dipped to 37 percent in 2014 when the BJP fielded its heavyweight Arun Jaitley, who was defeated by Congress’ Captain Amarinder Singh by a margin of around one-lakh votes. In the 2017 bypoll necessitated by the resignation tendered by Captain as an MP, the BJP did not only lost the elections but its vote share touched a new low (30 percent). By fielding Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri this time, the vote share improved slightly (around 40 per cent), but the party could not win the seat.

The average vote share of the saffron party during Sidhu’s tenure was 51 per cent, which came down to 36 per cent in post-Sidhu period. So, the vote share has dipped by 15 per cent, even as the BJP high command facilitated this segment by nominating local leader Shwait Malik for Rajya Sabha and later appointed him as the chief of Punjab BJP. Then, BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh also hails from here.

Notably, its alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which contests five out of total nine assembly seats of this parliamentary segment, has major contribution in its vote share. In fresh elections, SAD seat of Majitha is the only one from where BJP nominee got lead (9,932 votes). This assembly seat is home turf of SAD leader and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia.

The saffron party even lost its stronghold. Amritsar (north) is considered a bastion of former Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi, but the party candidate could not ensure lead from here. Pertinently, state chief of BJP women wing Reena Jaitley also lives in this assembly segment, apart from Malik. Congress candidate Gurjit Singh Aujla, the winner got a lead of 1,368 votes from here.

However, Malik said the BJP has sharply resurged in Punjab, including in Amritsar seat. He cited that lead of Congress nominee was higher in the 2017 bypoll from urban assembly segments.

“The party improving and will resurrect all weak links by the next elections,” the state BJP chief added.

First Published:
May 26, 2019 12:34 IST

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