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HomeIndiaBJP fields ex-diplomat Taranjit Sandhu from Amritsar; replaces Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur

BJP fields ex-diplomat Taranjit Sandhu from Amritsar; replaces Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur

Chandigarh, March 30: The BJP on Saturday announced the candidature of a former diplomat, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, from the Amritsar parliamentary seat that is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, among the six candidates for the 13 seats in Punjab.

Another high-profile seat in the state is Gurdaspur where the BJP has fielded three-time legislator Dinesh Babbu, who lost the 2022 assembly poll of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a margin of 4,636 votes from Sujanpur that comes under Pathankot district.

Babbu replaced Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, who owes his roots to Punjab from Gurdaspur, the seat represented four times by the Late actor Vinod Khanna, who died in April 2017 due to cancer.

The BJP also named Preneet Kaur from Patiala, three-term MP Ravneet Singh Bittu from Ludhiana and ex-AAP leader Sushil Kumar Rinku from Jalandhar reserved seat.

From the Faridkot reserved segment, the BJP fielded Hans Raj Hans, who is the North West Delhi MP in the outgoing 17th Lok Sabha.

After witnessing the embarrassing defeats of party stalwarts Arun Jaitley and Hardeep Singh Puri from Amritsar, which is traditionally a Congress bastion, the reposed faith in Sandhu, a Sikh whose family has its roots here in one of Punjab’s high-profile constituencies. He joined the BJP on March 19.

After joining the BJP, Sandhu told the media that his focus will be helping his home city, Amritsar, to develop. “If the party feels that by contesting I can help in the development of Amritsar, I certainly will contest.”

From 1952 to 2019, 20 Lok Sabha polls and bypolls were held, and the Congress won 13 times, while others, including the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the Janata Party, won six times and an Independent once.

The outgoing Member of Parliament is Gurjit Aujla, a Sikh and a local, who won the bypoll in 2017 with a margin of over 1.97 lakh votes. In 2019, he defeated diplomat-turned-politician Puri in a tough straight fight in the constituency dominated by the Jat community by 99,626 votes.

Incidentally, both Sandhu and Aujla are Jats. Now Sandhu has been fielded from Amritsar, he broke the ‘outsider’ tag, unlike Jaitley and Puri. Also, he has shifted to his Green Avenue house here.

Sandhu, the second diplomat-turned-politician after Puri, has a rich family heritage. His grandfather Teja Singh Samundri was among the founders of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and his father Bishan Singh Samundri was the founding Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar.

His mother Jagjit Kaur was the principal of Government College for Women in Amritsar.

His grandfather quit the British army to join the Independence and gurdwara reforms movement. He died in his 40s in Lahore Jail in 1926 under colonial custody.

Samundri Hall in Sri Harmandir Sahib is named in his memory.

Before the announcement of his name as the BJP candidate, Sandhu has hit the streets of Amritsar. Often he’s seen interacting with the locals and savouring jalebis and gulab jamuns and saying he has a family connection with this city.

Actor Deol won his electoral debut by defeating Congress heavyweight and sitting MP Sunil Jakhar from the Gurdaspur constituency with a margin of over 80,000 votes in 2019.

Jakhar, currently the state BJP unit chief, had won the Lok Sabha bypoll by 193,219 votes in October 2017. The bypoll was necessitated by the demise of the BJP sitting MP Vinod Khanna.

Last month, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann took a jibe at Deol, saying “politics means serving and being available to people round the clock.”

At present, the BJP currently has two MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha — Som Prakash in Hoshiarpur and Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur.

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