AMRISTAR EAST (Amritsar), Jan 22:
The election to this Assembly seat remains the most keenly watched ever since three-time former BJP MP from Amritsar seat Navjot Singh Sidhu jumped into the fray as a Congress candidate, claiming that his mission is to “save Punjab” and oust the ruling Badals who “looted” the state.
53-year-old Sidhu’s entry has overshadowed other contestants who are in the race for this seat, including Rajesh Kumar Honey (41), the district president of BJP and a councillor of the party. Honey first won the municipal corporation election in 2007 and then again in 2012.
Among the 15 candidates, including five Independents, who in the fray, Sarabjot Singh is contesting from AAP, Tarsem Singh from BSP and Baldev Singh from CPI.
Amritsar East, which was arved out of Amritsar North in 2012, has 1,52,413 voters, including 81,240 men and 71,173 women.
Like most other candidates fighting from other segments of holy city Amritsar which is in the grip of severe cold conditions these days, Sidhu enthrals the public with his one-liners and ‘Sidhuisms’.
Making his debut in Congress, Sidhu in his characteristic boisterous manner sends out his war cry against the ruling Badals in his poll rallies, which he holds not just in Amritsar-East, but all across Amritsar parliamentary segment, saying “Bhaag, Badal Bhaag, kursi khali kar (run Badal, run. Leave the chair)”.
Sidhu is fighting from the Amritsar East seat which was earlier held by his wife Navjot Kaur, who had switched over from BJP and joined Congress a few weeks ahead of him.
Navjot Kaur had defeated Simarpreet Kaur, an Independent candidate, by a margin of over 7,000 votes from here in the last elections.
Mandeep Manna was a ticket aspirant from Congress this time but the seat was given to Sidhu after he joined the party.
While Navjot Kaur is currently doing most of the campaigning in Amritsar East seat, Sidhu is devoting more time in various assembly segments of Amritsar, nine of which constitute the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, bypolls for which will be held simultaneously along with Assembly polls on February 4.
Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, Sidhu’s archrival from his erstwhile party BJP, is contesting the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat this time.
Having shifted base from Patiala to Amritsar to fight his first election in 2004, over the years Amritsar has remained his stronghold. Sidhu had remained the BJP MP from Amritsar LS constituency, winning the seat in 2004, 2007 (by-election) and 2009. He was also a Rajya Sabha MP for a brief period.
On the day of filing his nomination papers from here, Sidhu went to the house of veteran Congress leader R L Bhatia (95) and sought his blessings. Sidhu, who was then in BJP and contesting his first election, had trounced Bhatia, then six-time MP from Amritsar LS constituency, in 2004. (PTI)