The election frenzy is at its peak. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is claiming a wave in its favour, there is one constituency where it will find the going tough - Amritsar, where it has fielded Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri to take on sitting Member of Parliament Gurjeet Singh Aujla.
The diplomat-turned-politician wasn't the party's first choice. The BJP's Punjab wing wanted actress Poonam Dhillon whereas the party's leadership in New Delhi was keen to field senior advocate and activist H.S. Phoolka, who refused. Puri is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. His tenure ends in November 2020.
Amritsar had grabbed national headlines in the 2014 General Elections when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley lost to Congress' Captain Amarinder Singh with over one lakh votes in spite of a strong wave in favour of the BJP in North India. In the 2017 bypolls, which were called after Amarinder Singh quit to become Punjab Chief Minister, his confidant G.S. Aujla won the seat with more than 1.7 lakh votes.
Traditionally, Amritsar has been a Congress bastion, but the BJP was able to take the seat in 2004 after cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu defeated Congress stalwart and six-time MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia. Sidhu went on to win this seat three times. In 2014, he was denied the ticket.
Can Puri do what Jaitley couldn't? It is difficult to say. But one thing is clear - wresting Amritsar from the Congress will be an uphill task for the BJP. Here is why:
However, not all is lost for Puri. Here are the things that may help him.