Punjab BJP, Cong want change of guard

Arun Jaitley's defeat hits saffron party's morale in state

The crushing defeat of saffron party stalwart Arun Jaitley from Amritsar has hit the Punjab BJP, where it matters most.

Voices from within the party advocating immediate course correction measures, including a possible change of guard, are now growing stronger by the day.

BJP leaders in Punjab entrusted with the task of ensuring Jaitley’s victory have arguably lost face. The Punjab BJP has called a meeting of its core group on May 27 in New Delhi to discuss the election results.

Jaitley lost to Captain Amarinder Singh from Amritsar in Punjab – a state ruled by the BJP-Akali Dal combine – by a margin of over one lakh votes amid a Modi wave that swept the nation in favour of the saffron party.

In fact, Punjab is perhaps the only BJP-SAD ruled state where the Modi wave was largely missing and showed in the results.

Out of the 11 assembly segments that the party won in the last Assembly elections in 2012, the BJP trailed in 6 segments.

As per the seat sharing arrangement between the two allies in Punjab, the BJP contested on 23 Assembly seats out of the total 117 in Punjab. This time, the BJP trailed on 15 of the 23 Assembly segments it contested as per the arrangement.

Solace for the state BJP lies in the fact that its vote share increased by just about one percent since 2012. It’s a wakeup call for the state BJP.

Despite an entire BJP team, led by state president Kamal Sharma camping in Amritsar, the party could not avert a defeat in the holy city.

Jaitley trailed from Amritsar (North), a segment represented by Cabinet minister Anil Joshi who offered to resign following Jaitley defeat by 18,726 votes.

Amritsar was projected as a  safe seat for Jaitley before he finally decided to fight his first LS elections from there.

The advantages showcased by the state BJP leadership were encouraging.

But even as Amritsar is represented by a BJP cabinet minister and Deputy leader of the Legislative group Anil Joshi, a chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, and BJP Mayor, national vice president Laxmi Kanta Chawla and six senior state office bearers, Jaitley lost.

The decision to unceremoniously axe sitting MP Navjot Singh Sidhu to make way for Jaitley too cost the party dear. Jaitley trailed in the segment represented by his wife and CPS Navjot Kaur Sidhu by a huge margin of 32,198 votes.

The overall performance of the Punjab BJP too hasn’t been encouraging, especially in a Modi wave.

The saffron party did exceedingly well even in states like Haryana where its support base was anything but promising until this election.

In Punjab, the BJP trailed in the assembly constituencies of state president Kamal Sharma and leader of the legislative group Bhagat Chunni Lal.

The party trailed in all the three segments represented by BJP’s incumbent CPS Navjot Kaur Sidhu.

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