In Punjab, BJP struggles to find winnable candidates 

Hardeep Singh Puri. Photo: PTI

BJP president Amit Shah is facing stiff resistance from senior leaders of the Punjab BJP unit. Amit Shah has apparently failed to get the right candidates for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Punjab.

Punjab is one state where the Congress state leadership is strong, under Captain Amarinder Singh. The Akali Dal is too weak.

For the BJP, it is one crisis which stares on the face. Juniors like Union minister Hardeep Puri, Hindi cinema super star Dharmendra’s son Sunny Deol, and Vinod Khanna’s son Akshay Khanna have refused to contest on BJP tickets.

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The BJP in Punjab is finding it hard to project any ‘winnable’ candidates. Hardeep Singh Puri, Housing and Urban Development Minister, has refused to contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. Arun Jaitley was defeated in 2014 by present Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Amritsar.

The BJP sounded Hardeep Singh Puri after actor Sunny Deol declined the BJP’s offer to contest from Amritsar. Sunny Deol’s father, Dharmendra, was BJP MP from Bikaner. His step mother Hema Malini is also sitting Lok Sabha MP from Mathura. In fact, the BJP wanted Hema Malini to shift to Amritsar. But she declined saying she is a ‘Krishna Bhakt’ and would not want to shift from Vrindavan-Mathura.

The leadership then approached Hardeep Puri, a former IFS officer who was inducted with great fanfare into the BJP and made a minister straight and a Rajya Sabha MP. He hails from Amritsar and had worked hard for Arun Jaitley in 2014. But Hardeep Singh Puri politely declined saying that he had not been in touch with the electorate. Now, the BJP is saddled with the task of finding a winning candidate as there is none in the state who can give at least a tough fight to the Congress.

The BJP is contesting three out of 13 Lok Sabha seats — Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur (SC). The BJP is faced with a huge problem in Gurdaspur too. The party lost seat to the Congress in the by-election that took place after the demise of sitting MP Vinod Khanna two years ago. Congress’s Sunil Jakhar is the sitting MP. The BJP wanted Akshay Khanna, son of the late Vinod Khanna, to contest. But he refused to join politics. The party was not enthusiastic about fielding the late Vinod Khanna’s wife, Kavita Khanna. A frantic search is on candidates for both the seats. There is a proposal that local BJP leaders be fielded. But the leadership is not sure about their capability to win the seat. In Hoshiarpur, the BJP has re-nominated Vijay Singh Sampla who is a Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.

Contrary to the gloomy scenario in Punjab, the BJP is upbeat in Haryana where it has a problem of plenty in all the ten seats. With the Opposition a divided house in four groups, the BJP is having a field day and expects to win all ten seats. This is despite the fact that it could win only seven Lok Sabha seats despite the massive Modi wave of 2014. The polling in Haryana will take place in the 6th phase while in Punjab it will be in 7th phase, on May 19.

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