Khanna, Bajwa locked in close contest

Khanna, Bajwa locked in close contest

Actor and BJP candidate from Gurdaspur, Vinod Khanna, knows well the unpredictability of elections.

Despite winning the Gurdaspur seat three-times in a row, Khanna lost the 2009 polls by a slender margin.

The margin of defeat was just one per cent in vote share against Congress MP and Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa. The two are again pitted against each other in a close contest.

His spiritual guru, Osho, continues to inspire him. Khanna begins the day with meditation. Unlike other candidates, Khanna drives around in his black XUV-500, bolted with a saffron flag in the middle of the bonnet, and sets off meeting people and addressing public gatherings in this border constituency.

The saffron party is aware of Khanna’s knack to connect with the people at the ground level.

He successfully ended the 18-year Congress monopoly over Gurdaspur seat in 1998, and that too on electoral debut.

During his three terms, Khanna earned the nickname “Bridge man” or the “Badshah of Bridges”.

His efforts brought in several bridges over the Beas, Ujh and Ravi.

Bridges made life easier for residents of Gurdaspur. The yesteryear cine star rides on star power, often obliging audiences with a dialogue or two from one of his blockbusters.
Celebrities, including son Akshay, have been adding the desired punch. Khanna’s wife Kavita is part of the campaign team that is working overtime to ensure victory.

The Gurdaspur constituency, with close to 15 lakh voters, has nine Assembly segments with the Congress having five MLAs.

On Friday, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi campaigned for Khanna in Pathankot.

Modi said he was touched by Khanna who worked as a volunteer in Gujarat when a massive earthquake rocked the state.

Meanwhile, Khanna’s opponent Bajwa is eyeing a second term. He played a masterstroke of sorts to win voters by projecting himself as the next chief minister of Punjab after the Assembly elections.

Bajwa has grown in stature after his coronation as the Punjab Congress chief, but the elevation has also earned him dissent from many within the party.

Bajwa knows a defeat could damage his chief ministerial ambitions, especially since he does not share a good rapport with Capt Amarinder Singh.

At a rally on Thursday, Bajwa launched an emotional connect with the Sikh voters proposing that the sacred Kartarpur Sahib shrine, located across Ravi in Pakistan opposite to the Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district, be exchanged with some other Indian territory.

Bajwa said for long the Sikh devotees have been seeking free access to this shrine where the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, spent the last years of his life.
Precedent for such exchange of territories after partition does exist.

Hussainiwala, which today has a revered memorial of martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sujkhdev, was handed over by Pakistan in exchange for another piece of Indian territory.
Since 1952, the Congress has won the seat 11 times.

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