Amritsar, May 15
Excited about contesting his first election from this holy town, Union minister Hardeep Puri says the BJP will avenge its 2014 defeat as it has fielded a Sikh candidate and there is a “definite consolidation” of the community’s votes.
The diplomat-turned-politician, a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, said Amritsar missed an opportunity in 2014 by electing Congress’ Captain Amarinder Singh, who didn’t show up for three years despite being its MP.
In a high profile contest in 2014, Amarinder Singh defeated BJP heavyweight Arun Jaitley by more than one lakh votes in Amritsar, famed as the Golden Temple town. He resigned in 2017 after being elected chief minister of Punjab.
“In 2014, there was the expectation that Modiji would become the prime minister… look at the opportunity Amritsar missed? Everywhere I go, people tell me they made a serious mistake by electing Captain Amarinder Singh, who didn’t show up in Amritsar,” Puri told PTI in an interview.
Declaring that the party will “avenge” its 2014 defeat, Puri said there is strong anti-incumbency against the Congress government in the state.
Replying to a question on how the BJP’s perception as a Hindutva party will play out in Sikh-dominated Amritsar, Puri said, “The BJP is for all communities… and I am the Sikh face…The party has fielded a Sikh candidate and there is a definite consolidation of the votes of the Sikh community. The situation is very much in our favour.”
Singh, the minister of state for Housing and Urban Affairs, said Sikhs are patriotic and advocacies for development. They connect with Prime Minister Modi, he added, emphasising that the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Amritsar is different from 2014.
“Now, the anti-incumbency is against Congress party which is consolidating. And then there’s this 1984 Sikh massacre issue which has been further complicated by Sam Pitroda, the retainer of the Gandhi family,” Puri said.
Congress leader Pitroda triggered a controversy with his “hua to hua” (whatever happened, happened) comment on the anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The remark was strongly condemned by the BJP as well as by Congress president Rahul Gandhi who asked him to apologise.
Puri said the “hua to hua’ attitude shows complete insensitivity. “I think the Congress has really has some answering to do,” he asserted.
In his view, the killing of innocent Sikhs in the 1984 riots is “playing very strong” in the community.
Acknowledging that his campaign might have started late, Puri said he has covered a lot of ground and is getting “excellent feedback from both rural and urban areas”.
Puri is in direct contest with Congress candidate Gurjeet Singh Aujla, who won the Lok Sabha seat in 2017, after Amarinder Singh resigned.
Amritsar will vote on May 19, the last round of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections. The votes will be counted on May 23.