Bollywood actor Sunny Deol's candidature from Gurdaspur has triggered in a war of words in Punjab, with the Congress dubbing him a "pawn" and the BJP describing him as a "tsunami" that would sweep away the grand old party.
It is the second time that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded a celebrity in Gurdaspur in the general election. The seat, which was a Congress stronghold, was won by the BJP in 1998 when it fielded late actor Vinod Khanna.
Khanna managed to defeat veteran Congress leader and five-time MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, and went on to retain the border seat four times. After the demise of Khanna, it was won by state Congress president Sunil Jakhar in a 2017 bypoll by over 1.9 lakh votes.
Not finding any local leader suitable, the BJP sprang a surprise with the nomination of Deol, who joined the party on Tuesday.
"Whatever I can do for this family (BJP), I will do it. I won't talk, I will show you through my work," Deol, whose real name is Ajay Singh Deol, had said after joining the party.
Deol, who has played the lead role in blockbusters like 'Ghayal', 'Gadar' and 'Border', will file his nomination papers on Monday.
The move to field 62-year-old actor in Gurdaspur drew sharp reactions from the Congress.
"Bringing Sunny here (Gurdaspur) means that he will be used as a pawn by (prime minister Narendra) Modi sahib. The PM cannot face tough questions of voters and that is why the party resorted to bringing a film star here in order to captivate them," Jakhar said.
"Questions are still there. Where are the jobs and what have you done for Punjab?" the state Congress president asked. "The BJP leadership has accepted defeat. (Therefore), they are taking the help of Sunny Deol to seek votes."
The BJP, however, claimed that the Congress was shocked.
"The entire Congress leadership is jittery with the nomination of Sunny Deol. He is like a tsunami and will sweep the entire Congress away on all 13 Lok Sabha seats," BJP secretary Tarun Chugh said on Saturday.
"Sunny Deol is a Jat face and he is popular among every section of society," Chugh added.
Political observers, however, said it might not be an easy win for the BJP.
Out of the nine assembly seats in the parliamentary constituency, Congress legislators represent seven -- Dera Baba Nanak, Fatehgarh Churian, Pathankot, Dinanagar, Qadian, Gurdaspur and Bhoa.
Only two seats -- Batala and Sujanpur -- is with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had claimed on Friday that Deol had no ground support in the constituency and Jakhar would win the seat.
"He (Deol) is a filmy 'fauji' (soldier), while I am a real 'fauji'," Singh said, in an apparent reference to the actor's popular war movie, 'Border'.
SAD president Sukhbir Badal, meanwhile, asserted that the security deposit of Jakhar would be forfeited.
The chief minister had already warned his ministers and MLAs if they filed to ensure victory in their constituencies, they might bear the brunt. Therefore, Congress will be making an all-out effort to ensure Jakhar's victory.
Gurdaspur goes to polls in the last phase on May 19.