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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | SAD to contest Gurdaspur LS seat on party symbol for first time since 1996

The Sukhbir Singh Badal-led SAD has placed its bet on the party's senior vice president and veteran leader Daljit Singh Cheema from the seat.
Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 07:17 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 07:17 IST

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Chandigarh: After snapping ties with the BJP, the Akali Dal is all set to contest the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat on party symbol 'takdi’ or scales for the first time since 1996 as it braces for a showdown with its former ally which has used star power to clinch the seat on numerous occasions.

The Shiromani Akali Dal had joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1996. As part of the seat-sharing arrangement for the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies of Punjab, the BJP used to contest from Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.

The SAD walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 2020 over the now-repealed farm laws.

The SAD walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 2020 over the now-repealed farm laws.

The Sukhbir Singh Badal-led SAD has placed its bet on the party's senior vice president and veteran leader Daljit Singh Cheema from the seat.

“The SAD workers are enthusiastic over the party fielding its own candidate from Gurdaspur and are happy to see the party symbol 'takdi'. There is an emotional attachment with the symbol,” Cheema told PTI.

Cheema, an MBBS doctor, said the SAD had last contested from Gurdaspur in the 1996 general elections and party nominee Jagdish Singh Walia came second.

Rubbishing BJP's charge that he was an “outsider”, Cheema said he was born in Mari Buchian village in Sri Hargobindpur and studied in the village school. He said he contested his first election in 2002 from the Sri Hargobindpur assembly seat in Gurdaspur.

The BJP has managed to keep the seat in its kitty by fielding Bollywood stars like Vinod Khanna and Sunny Deol from the seat.

However, this time around, it has named local leader and former MLA Dinesh Singh Babbu as its candidate -- a move 62-year-old Cheema attributed to the 'negativity' that the BJP was facing.

The BJP had announced on March 26 that it would go solo in the general elections in Punjab. The party named Babbu in its eight list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls on March 30.

The BJP has been facing “negativity” in the constituency where it has been fielding movie actors. The party has been dependent on film actors as it “failed” to find suitable local candidates, Cheema said.

“The BJP had been bringing candidates from outside and it was the SAD that ensured their victory,” he said, referring to the erstwhile alliance with the BJP.

The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat used to be a Congress bastion before the BJP brought in Bollywood star Khanna and fielded him from the constituency in 1998.

Khanna defeated five-time Congress MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder and won again in 1999, 2004 and 2014. Khanna lost the seat in 2009 to Congress candidate Partap Singh Bajwa.

Following Khanna's death in 2017, Congress' Sunil Jakhar won the 2017 bypoll. In the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP fielded Deol who won the seat.

Taking a jibe at Deol over his “absence” from the constituency, Cheema said ‘gumshuda’ or missing posters had come up against the actor-turned-politician in the constituency.

On Babbu's candidature, Cheema said the BJP was 'forced' to field him as the people of the constituency were fed up with the paradropping of film actors.

“Babbu (when he was MLA) never spoke in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He did not utter a single word. What will such people do in Parliament,” asked Cheema, who was the education minister in the erstwhile Akali government.

On the campaign trail, Babbu has been facing the anger of farmers protesting against the BJP-led central government for not allowing agitators enter Delhi and its failure to give a legal guarantee for MSP among other issues.

A group of farmers showed black flags to Babbu on Saturday while he was campaigning in Gurdaspur. He also faced the farmers' wrath in Batala on April 21.

On the Kartarpur corridor, Cheema said a permit system should be introduced by doing away with the requirement of passports so more and more people can offer prayers at the historic gurdwara in Pakistan.

The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district.

Cheema pitched for a special package for the border areas to boost industrialisation and also stressed fiscal incentives for the industry in Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

From the Gurdaspur seat, the AAP has fielded Batala MLA Amansher Singh Kalsi while the Congress has yet to name its candidate.

Polling for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab will take place on June 1.

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Published 28 April 2024, 07:17 IST

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