BJP is finding it hard to fill Khanna void
Claim of late MP’S wife for ticket got a boost when PM heaped praises on family at Jan 3 rally; state chief Jakhar Cong’s strongest contender; RS MP Bajwa may also throw his hat in ring; AAP lacks visible face
GURDASPUR: In the wake of the demise of actor-politician Vinod Khanna, who remained MP from the Gurdaspur seat for four times, the Bharatiya Janata Party is finding it difficult to find someone who could carry the day as the Congress, the ruling party in the state, is likely to field a heavyweight this time as well.
When the seat fell vacant after Khanna’s death in April 2017, the saffron party could not retain it in the bypoll held in October that year. Party candidate Swaran Salaria, a Mumbai-based businessman and a native of a village in Pathankot district, was defeated by state Congress president Sunil Jakhar by a thumping margin of 1.93 lakh votes.
Salaria is trying to get the party ticket this time too, it is learnt. To strengthen his claim, he made it a point to remain present on the stage during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Gurdaspur on January 3.
But Modi’s praise for late Vinod Khanna in the presence of his wife Kavita Khanna made her claim for the ticket stronger. She has started meeting people and the party rank and file in the constituency to mobilise their support for her candidature. “I want to realise the dreams of my husband. I am ready to shift to Gurdaspur permanently,” she said addressing a gathering recently.
Also, the name of Vinod Khanna’s son from his first wife, Akshaye Khanna, is also doing the rounds for the ticket.
Among local party leaders, the names of former BJP state president Ashwani Sharma, ex-minister Master Mohan Lal and Sujanpur MLA Dinesh Singh Babbu are also doing the rounds. Of
these,babbu’s claim is the strongest as he is a three-time MLA.
From the Congress’ side, sitting MP Sunil Jakhar, who has a good electoral record, is most likely to be the ruling party’s candidate from the seat.
Congress’s Punjab affairs in-charge Asha Kumari’s statement in favour of Jakhar has also strengthened his candidature. But since Jakhar’s detractors tag him as an ‘outsider’ (he belongs to Abohar in Fazilka district), other aspirants are also hopeful to get the ticket.
Also, senior party leader and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa may throw his hat in the ring. Also, Punjab Health
Systems Corporation (PHSC) chairman Amardeep Cheema applied for ticket. Both hail from Gurdaspur district.
Bajwa may try to get the ticket as his term as Rajya Sabha MP is coming to an end in 2021. Both are Jat Sikh, the community which has a sizeable presence in the constituency.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) does not have a face to reckon with from the segment. AAP’S candidate Maj Gen (retd) Suresh Khajuria finished a distant third with only 23,579 votes in the bypoll. Party sources say neither he is active in politics nor he is showing any interest to contest the upcoming polls.