Amarinder queers pitch for Jaitley in Amritsar

Amarinder queers pitch for Jaitley in Amritsar

Neither of the alliance partners, BJP or Akali Dal, could foresee the possibility of a ‘safe’ seat like Amritsar turning into a volatile electoral battleground, where incumbents are now firing all guns to counter the ferocity of a former soldier.

The saffron party’s ace strategist Arun Jaitley has not moved out of Amritsar ever since his party chose him for this seat in his debut Lok Sabha elections. This is one election that Jaitley will remember as a tough challenge. 

His Congress opponent, Capt Amarinder Singh, the erstwhile titular Maharaja of Patiala, is an unexpected adversary arguably pushed into the poll fray by the party’s high command. But that was perhaps the party’s masterstroke to confine the efforts of the ruling alliance. And it has worked. Amarinder has not let anybody from the opposite camp sleep easy. 

Amritsar is the epicentre of elections in Punjab and the outcome will be beyond the scope of mere victory or defeat. 

However, the electoral sweepstakes have changed fast here. It took the number 1 man of the saffron party, Narendra Modi, to campaign for someone who is arguably considered his ‘second-in-command’. 

Over a dozen cine stars descended upon Amritsar to support Jaitley. His friends from the legal fraternity, several of Jaitley’s relatives, his wife Sangeeta and daughter Sonali, well-known leaders of the BJP and an entire machinery of the Akali Dal and state BJP, have been camping in Amritsar. 

Interestingly, the Congress’ campaign in Amritsar hasn’t seen Rahul, Sonia Gandhi, or even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has roots in this holy city. But that has made no difference to Amarinder’s belligerent campaign.

Amritsar was retained by BJP’s MP Navjot Singh Sidhu for the last three consecutive terms. But after his unceremonious ouster to make way for his guru Jaitley, the BJP hasn’t been able to bring Sidhu for even a day to campaign for his mentor. This will somewhere hurt the party in Amritsar, which has 63 per cent of Sikh population.

Contrasting campaigns

Jaitley’s campaign in Amritsar has been development-centric against the one by Amarinder that has been tailor-made to bring discomfort to Jaitley and his team. On the streets of this border city, Jaitley talks about youth issues, unemployment, and sells dreams of propelling Amritsar into an economic hub, a tourist centre and an international trade zone with the opening of  borders in Punjab with Pakistan. Amarinder talks about all this, and perhaps more, but also knows how to create uneasiness in the opposite camp, while raking up issues like Jaitley’s ‘outsider’ tag. By the time Amarinder upped the ante, Jaitley had already bought a posh five-bedroom bungalow in Amritsar to shed his outsider tag and let the topic rest in peace.

Amarinder’s was a reluctant start, but he enjoys clout all over Punjab. His “clean chit” to Jagdish Tytler this time around was a self-goal, which served as fodder for his opponents who even took to streets in the national capital to protest.

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