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Posted at: May 22, 2019, 7:08 AM; last updated: May 22, 2019, 9:54 AM (IST)

In changed political scenario, it’s no cakewalk for Jakhar

In changed political scenario, it’s no cakewalk for Jakhar

Ravi Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 21

Much water has flowed down the Ravi ever since sitting MP and Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar defeated BJP’s Swaran Singh Salaria in the 2017 bypoll by an impressive margin with political observers now spelling out four factors which have completely altered the political dynamics of the party and its candidate in the last 18 months.

Firstly, in the byelection, Jakhar was considered to be invincible to the extent that even senior BJP leaders, fearing embarrassment, ditched its nominee. No Delhi-based politician was seen in the constituency lending support to Salaria. In contrast, the party this time put its candidate Sunny Deol’s campaign on a firm footing by asking Amit Shah, Sushma Swaraj and Gen VK Singh to tour the area.

Secondly, the PPCC chief’s spin doctors had dexterously made the euphoria of the newly elected Punjab government to work to his advantage. Before the constituency went to the polls on October 11, 2017, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, secure in the knowledge that elections were imminent, announced a slew of projects during his August 15 speech in Gurdaspur. The voters were promised that two state-of-the-art medical colleges, each having a provision of a 500-bed hospital, would be set up in Gurdaspur and Pathankot. The Rs 2400 crore Shahpur Kandi dam and Rs 1200 crore Pepsi bottling and dairy plants and a degree college in Kalanaur, too, were announced.

Thirdly, Salaria, a Mumbai-based businessman, was considered to be a weak candidate. His candidature suited nobody’s interests and to complicate the matters dissident leaders jumped onto his rival’s bandwagon in large numbers. He cut a pathetic figure throughout and was virtually out of contention the moment he filed his papers.

“Salaria’s USP was that he was a rich man and would appease anybody and everybody who mattered. However, that did not happen. In contrast, Deol faced no such difficulty. He joined the BJP on the condition that his campaign would be fully financed by the party. The party bent backwards to adjust him and all his preconditions,” said a leader involved in the actor’s campaign.

Lastly, there was absolutely no anti-incumbency of the newly elected MLAs. This time the MP may have to carry his legislators’ anti-incumbency baggage with him, a development which may backfire.

“All seven MLAs, in an attempt to appoint their loyalists as sarpanches, inadvertently created fissures in the cadre. We hope these factions worked against the Congress,” said a BJP leader.

Jakhar, however, says the numerous developmental works he has brought to the area in his 18-month tenure as a parliamentarian will see him through.

BJP has put entire might behind Deol

In the byelection, Jakhar was considered to be invincible to the extent that even senior BJP leaders, fearing embarrassment, ditched its nominee. In contrast, the party this time put its candidate Sunny Deol's campaign on a firm footing by asking Amit Shah, Sushma Swaraj and Gen VK Singh to tour the area.

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