Tribune News Service
Gurdaspur, April 23
A last-minute change in the script has meant that the BJP has opted for Sunny Deol, whose real name is Ajay Singh Deol, as its candidate for the Gurdaspur parliamentary seat, sidelining the claims of Kavita Vinod Khanna and other senior leaders.
A senior leader said the factors that went in favour of Deol were the party’s in-house multiple survey reports and the speculation that dissent could surface against Kavita’s candidacy, particularly in Sujanpur, Bhoa, Pathankot and Dinanagar, the seats allocated to the BJP.
Another reason being attributed to the actor’s nomination is that he will be in a better position to draw the dominant Jat Sikh and youth vote as compared to any other candidate.
For the past few days, party workers had been on tenterhooks as the pendulum kept swinging in favour of three contenders — Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar and Kavita Khanna.
Several senior leaders from Pathankot formed a group against Kavita and went to Delhi to impress upon the high command to “give any candidate but Mrs Khanna”.
Now, with the dust having finally settled, leaders have started preparing the ground for Deol’s campaign. Posters of his blockbusters like ‘Border’, which carry anti-Pakistan rhetoric, have been ordered from Mumbai.
The BJP has acted on a three-pronged strategy by nominating Deol. First, the party has combined the actor’s shock value and star value. Observers cite the example of former MP Vinod Khanna, when he was given the ticket for the first time in 1998. “His Congress opponent, Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, was said to be virtually unbeatable and had already won the seat for five successive terms. Khanna’s star status enabled him to beat Bhinder by nearly a lakh votes and that too when the actor had barely enough time to campaign as compared to his rival,” said an MLA.
Second, the party has managed to kill dissent that was surfacing against Kavita. Third, the BJP has sought to capture the youth vote bank by riding on Deol’s cult status.
Till yesterday, Kavita’s name was considered a certainty with senior leaders even confirming it. A few days ago when Deol’s name first surfaced, a family member of Sunny had confided in Kavita that the actor was not interested in contesting the polls. The reason being cited was that “he was too busy in launching his son, Karan Deol, in his debut movie ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Pass’.
Insiders claim Sunny had initially agreed to contest from Amritsar. However, the party took a U-turn and asked Union minister Hardeep Puri to take the plunge.
Peeved, Sunny flew back to Mumbai. Senior Maharashtra BJP leaders later convinced him to contest from Gurdaspur.
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