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

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTPUNJAB - Sur­jit Singh • sur­[email protected] n

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.

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