Constituency Watch Amritsar: Represented by ‘bigwigs’, Amritsar still grapples with civic issues : The Tribune India

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Constituency Watch Amritsar: Represented by ‘bigwigs’, Amritsar still grapples with civic issues

Constituency Watch Amritsar: Represented by ‘bigwigs’, Amritsar still grapples with civic issues


Tribune News Service

GS PAUL

Amritsar, May 19

Amritsar’s pride the Golden Temple and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) headquarters located here, qualify it to be the centre of Sikh Panthic politics, yet irrespective of the religion it was Congress’ Hindu candidate Raghunandan Lal Bhatia who represented Amritsar in the parliament for maximum times.

Another record that comes to the holy city’s credit was that the ‘bigwigs’ get chosen for this hot seat contest and even those who were defeated secured top places in the Centre’s cabinet.

Major Issues

  • Apart from the drug abuse, the smuggling of narcotics and arms from across the border is rampant
  • The ‘special economic package’ for developing border areas, remained only on papers. The Attari-Wagah bilateral trade was non-starter
  • The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), only one in Punjab, is still running from a temporary campus
  • Solid waste management is a major issue. Garbage is piled up on roads, even on lanes to the Golden Temple

The electorate

  • Total electors 16,08,795
  • Male 8,44,208
  • Female7,64,524
  • Third gender: 63

Traditionally, Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency has been a Congress stronghold. Between 1952 and 2019, 20 Lok Sabha polls and bypolls were conducted. Of these, Congress occupied the seat for 13 times, the opposition, including Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Janata Party and Bharatiya Janata Party six times and Independent once.

Amritsar’s first MP was Gurmukh Singh Musafir fielded by Indian National Congress. He was Jathedar of Akal Takht from March 12, 1930 to March 5, 1931. He was elected thrice as MP in 1952, 1957 and 1962. Thereafter, he headed the state as Chief Minister from November 1, 1966 to March 8, 1967.

Similarly, Bhatia was elected to Lok Sabha in 1972, 1980, 1985, 1992, 1996 and 1999, served as the Governor of Kerala from 2004 to 2008 and the Governor of Bihar from 2008 to 2009. Despite 1984 Operation Blue Star, he remained undefeated. He had also served as Minister of State for External Affairs in 1992. He was defeated by Navjot Singh Sidhu in 2004, as SAD-BJP candidate.

As per seat sharing formula, Amritsar’s Lok Sabha seat was in BJP’s kitty. Except Sidhu, who had registered consecutive wins from 2004 to 2014, the BJP could not win despite fielding stalwarts like Arun Jaitley and former bureaucrat Hardeep Singh Puri.

Since 2014, the Congress has regained its supremacy. Arun Jaitley lost to Congress’ Capt Amarinder Singh and in 2019, Puri was defeated by Gurjeet Singh Aujla with a convincing margin of one lakh votes. Despite losing, both secured their berths in Centre’s cabinet as ministers.

Now, Aujla aims to score a hat-trick after winning 2017 bypolls and 2019 polls.

Sikhs makes up over 50 per cent of the total electorates of the constituency and the trend of fielding Sikh candidates from Amritsar had prevailed.

Interestingly, in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, the ‘Panthic party’ Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has broken the glass ceiling by putting the bet on a Hindu face Anil Joshi, the BJP turncoat, whereas the RSS-influenced BJP has fielded the Sikh candidate Taranjit Singh Sandhu, a former envoy to the US. While Joshi is banking on ‘works’ done during his tenure as Local Bodies Minister, Sandhu comes up with a development agenda to put Amritsar on global map citing his ‘international’ connections. He also put ‘Samundri’ as suffix to his name to identify his Panthic family ties with his grandfather Teja Singh Samundri, the founder SGPC member who played a vital role in the Gurdwara Reform Movement and contested the colonial regime.

With SAD and BJP failing to stitch re-alliance, it would be for the first time since 1996 that both the parties stood opposite to each other. It would be litmus test for SAD and the BJP, as well, to contest solo.

On the other hand, AAP’s Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal is apparently standing on a sticky wicket if the anti-incumbency factor is anything to consider. Otherwise, his advantage as minister in the ruling state government makes him a strong contender.

On the other hand, Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) joint candidate Daswinder Kaur, is mentionable for being the only female candidate in the fray. SAD (Amritsar) has fielded Simranjit Singh Mann’s son Iman Singh Mann from here.

Amritsar parliamentary constituency is comprised of nine Assembly segments in all — five urban, bifurcated as East, West (SC), Central, North and South; four rural, Attari, Ajnala, Majitha and Rajasansi (SC).

Prominent candidates

Gurjeet Aujla (Cong)

Gurjeet Aujla (Cong): Currently representing Amritsar in Parliament. His debut was through 2014 bypoll. He defeated BJP candidate Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina. In 2019, he reclaimed the seat by defeating BJP’s Hardeep Singh Puri. Aujla gained global limelight when a disruptive incident occurred in Parliament last year. He dared to snatch a canister from a person what he thought was a ‘bomb’ and ran towards the exit of the Parliament building.

Anil Joshi (SAD)

Anil Joshi (SAD): He was first elected as a BJP candidate to the Vidhan Sabha from Amritsar North in 2007 and then re-elected in 2012. He was also sworn in as Local Bodies, Medical Education & Research minister in SAD-BJP cabinet. He lost to Sunil Dutti (Congress) by 14,000 votes in 2017 Punjab Assembly election. He had refused to toe the line of BJP-led Central Government in farm laws leading to his expulsion from the BJP. He joined Shiromani Akali Dal in August 2021.

Taranjit Sandhu (BJP): The 1988-batch IFS officer and US diplomat who retired in

Taranjit Sandhu (BJP)

February, started his political debut from Amritsar after joining the BJP. Besides his distinguished career, he has Panthic family background. He is grandson of Teja Singh Samundri who suffered atrocities during the British-era for his vital role in the Gurdwara Reform Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. Sandhu has been approaching residents with his development agenda.

Kuldeep Dhaliwal (AAP)

Kuldeep Dhaliwal (AAP): Dhaliwal was elected as the MLA representing Ajnala. He was given portfolios, including Rural Development Panchayats Minister, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, NRI Affairs. Currently, he is left with only NRI Affairs, despite the fact that he claimed to have set-free panchayat land from illegal encroachments. He had also contested the 2019 LS polls and had to contend with the third place with meagre 20,087 votes.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Congress #Darbar Sahib Amritsar #Golden Temple Amritsar #SGPC #Sikhs


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