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Akalis spring surprise by fielding Daljit Cheema from Gurdaspur

May face challenge in Hindu-dominated areas

Akalis spring surprise by fielding Daljit Cheema from Gurdaspur

Daljit Singh Cheema, ex-Cabinet minister. File photo



Tribune News Service

Ravi Dhaliwal

Gurdaspur, April 13

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has sprung a surprise by deciding to opt for ex-Cabinet minister Daljit Singh Cheema as its candidate for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat. Despite hailing from Sri-Hargobindpur, which forms a part of Gurdaspur district, Cheema’s name was never in contention.

The two names doing the rounds were of SAD Majha youth wing chief Ravi Karan Kahlon and ex-MLA Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal. There was also talk of the party poaching Kavita Khanna after the BJP had decided to cold shoulder her claim for the ticket.

Cheema is a known confidant of the Badal family and is considered to be a mature and articulate leader. His advice is much sought after by his junior colleagues.

Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency has nine assembly seats, of which four — Bhoa, Pathankot, Sujanpur and Dinanagar — are widely perceived as Hindu-dominated areas and normally drift the BJP way whenever parliamentary polls are held. This, sources say, may pose problems for Cheema.

In the 2019 polls, BJP candidate Sunny Deol had notched up a 70,000-plus lead from these four seats. This, in the ultimate analysis, proved to be the winning factor for him.

Observers claim that with SAD no longer enjoying the backing of the BJP, it may find itself in a difficult position. “In the previous elections, the BJP-SAD combine was strong enough to ward off challenges. In the 2014 and 2019 polls, Vinod Khanna, the BJP candidate, won the poll based on SAD support. On both occasions, besides the top BJP leadership, including PM Narendra Modi, campaigning for him, Khanna had received the unstinted support of Parkash Singh Badal, who had even addressed rallies in his favour. On the other hand, Cheema will have to do without the BJP support. This may prove to be detrimental for him in areas regarded as BJP strongholds,” said an Akali leader.

Sources say everything depends on the team Cheema stitches together for his campaign. He will be heavily dependent on Akali leaders like Ravi Karan Kahlon, Gurbachan Singh Babbehali and LS Lodhinangal to pull him through. He will also heavily bank on the experience and political expertise of veteran leader Balbir Singh Baath, who is regarded as the most erudite Akali leader in Majha.

Cheema has also served as adviser to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from 2007 till 2012 as a Cabinet minister. In fact, Cheema had helped Badal tide over numerous political complications during his 10-year rule as CM. He remained the Education Minister from 2014 to 2017.

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#Daljit Singh Cheema #Gurdaspur #Lok Sabha #Shiromani Akali Dal


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