Lok Sabha election 2024: BJP’s Amritsar candidate Taranjit Sandhu talks up American cure for Punjab ills : The Tribune India

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Lok Sabha election 2024: BJP’s Amritsar candidate Taranjit Sandhu talks up American cure for Punjab ills

Ex-envoy details how his foreign stints will ‘benefit’ state

Lok Sabha election 2024: BJP’s Amritsar candidate Taranjit Sandhu talks up American cure for Punjab ills

BJP candidate Taranjit Singh Sandhu meets locals at Majith Mandi in Amritsar. File



Tribune News Service

Charanjit Singh Teja

Amritsar, May 18

Foreign dreams have always fascinated Punjabis. Ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, Shiromani Akali Dal president and then Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal had promised to transform Punjab into California. However, this vision collapsed as the Akalis suffered a crushing defeat. Seven years down the line, the “American transformation” is back in the spotlight, courtesy Sukhbir’s old school friend Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who is the BJP’s Lok Sabha poll candidate from Amritsar.

Sandhu, a former Indian Ambassador to the US who retired earlier this year after a 35-year-long career that was marked by four postings in America, has been hardselling his “American connections” to the voters of the holy city. “I will use my vast experience of working in the US to transform Amritsar into a world-class city. I am brimming with ideas,” the 1988-batch Indian Foreign Service officer asserts, calling the recent Rs 850-crore funding from US-based organisations to support Amritsar’s start-ups as a “trailer”.

Rally after rally, the former diplomat tries to explain how the problems plaguing Amritsar and Punjab would have been tackled in the US. “Two effective de-addiction drugs have been recently invented in America. I will ensure these medicines are given for free to the addicts in Punjab… Your incumbent MP mustn’t even have heard about these,” he says, targeting Congress opponent Gurjeet Singh Aujla. At another rally, he mentions about White House drug czar Rahul Gupta and other top US drug enforcement officials “who are keen to help Punjab counter the drug menace”.

Having served as the deputy chief of the US mission between 2013 and 2016, Sandhu also flaunts his “good ties” with PM Narendra Modi. “Major investments and new projects will flow into Amritsar once I am your MP and Modi becomes PM the third time,” he says in Fatehgarh Shukrchak village near Attari. Often mentioning Modi and the US in same sentence, the former ambassador also doesn’t forget to mention the Indian diaspora. “The people of our community in the US are eager to help us. They collected Rs 850 crore for the creation of job opportunities in Amritsar. Even if the government doesn’t give us money, we will raise the living standard with the support of the diaspora,” he assures a gathering at the famous Giani Tea Stall. “What about selling Amritsari ‘papads’ and ‘waddian’ at American stores,” he asks a few in the crowd.

But winning the Amritsar seat is a challenge for the BJP, with tall leaders like former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Minister Hardeep Puri biting the dust in 2014 and 2019. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu (now in the Congress) was the last BJP leader to win Amritsar — thrice in a row in 2004, 2007 and 2009. The concern is more as Sandhu was recently shown black flags in the rural belts of Rajasansi and Ajnala.

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#BJP #Lok Sabha #Shiromani Akali Dal #Sukhbir Badal #United States of America USA


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