Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Taranjit Singh SandhuImage@social media

Last week, former Indian envoy to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu was seen savouring jalebis and gulab jamuns at a local sweet shop in Amritsar. That's not it. The former Indian diplomat has hit his social media accounts with a resurgence, diligently posting his interactions with Rotary Club members, his guest appearances at college festivals and school functions, his visit to the Golden Temple, his meetings with local business lobby, farmers' groups among others.

Just three weeks after bidding adieu to his long innings as India's ambassador in Washington DC, Sandhu has hit the streets and local institutions of Amritsar. His recent interactions, networking with almost all the lobbies in the Holy City of Punjab have sparked rumours of a probable BJP Lok Sabha ticket from the Amritsar constituency.

Though he is yet to officially join or announce his association with the saffron party, the speculations were further strengthened when last month, he paid a surprise visit to the BJP office.

Golden Temple
Amritsar: Golden Temple decorated with lights on the eve of the Diwali festival, in Amritsar on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. (Photo:Pawan sharma/IANS)IANS

Is he likely to prevail over voters?

So far, so good. But given that he gets the ticket, how good or slim are the chances of him bagging the constituency and kickstarting a political innings for himself? Sandhu's father was an educationist and founder vice-chancelllor of Guru Nanak Dev University. With the family's ancestral village rooted in the Tarn Taran district, Sandhu ticks off pretty much all the right boxes of a candidate, but for his long absence from his native place due to his long diplomatic career.

However, winning over the Lok Sabha seat from Amritsar constituency is far more complex. It'll take more than engagement with voters and public confidence of resolving the issues for Taranjit Singh Sandhu for a wave in his favor.

Taranjit Sandhu

Consecutive defeats in the Amritsar constituency for BJP

Given the history of earlier candidates being fielded by BJP from Amritsar, the voters did not approve 'outside locals.' Both Arun Jaitley and Hardeep Singh Puri suffered defeat in the previous Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has not been able to win the Parliamentary seat from Amritsar since 2014.

Late Arun Jaitley was also vocal about his love for his native town Amritsar, his fleet of cousins still settled in the city and his love for 'Amritsari Kulchas.' But the voters had none of that. Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri was the next in line to face defeat at the hands of his opponent Gurjeet Singh Aujla of INC. Aujla won the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency with a margin of 99,626 votes defeating Hardeep Singh Puri of BJP.

As a result, the BJP has not been able to win the Amritsar Parliamentary Constituency in the last two elections. Prior to 2014, cricketer politician Navjot Singh Sidhu had won the seat thrice in a row for the BJP. 

In the neighbouring Gurdaspur constituency, although Sunny Deol won the seat, his prolonged absence has sowed seeds of distrust and discord among locals. This time several local candidates have been vying for a BJP ticket and are said to be united against an 'outsider' being fielded. Reportedly, the locals vying for BJP ticket include Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, Harwinder Singh, Jagmohan Raju and Shwait Mallik.

Punjab remains a tricky place, a belt that has never given in to saffron parties both local or regional, but ready to give newbies a chance as proved by the AAP wave and is a departure from national political trends. In the meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party, which is a part of the INDIA bloc, has declared it would go solo in Punjab 2024 elections.

The Congress, on the other hand, said that it would win all the 13 Parliamentary constituencies in Punjab on its own. Analysts believe that a triangular contest may change the prospects of many BJP candidates this time in Punjab, including Amritsar.