BJP candidate and Union Minister for Urban Development Hardeep Puri is expected to reach Amritsar on Thursday, where Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had faced a historic defeat at the hands of Capt. Amarinder Singh in 2014 despite the Modi wave.
Unlike Jaitley, Puri, a former bureaucrat who had joined BJP in 2017, isn't new to the city. Since he joined BJP, he has been visiting very frequently. He has taken meetings of local BJP leaders, held rallies and attended press conferences in Amritsar over the last two years to advocate various schemes of the Modi government.
Puri got a shot in the arm when he was sent to Pakistan as a Sikh minister to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor.
A BJP leader said, "Arun Jaitley was totally new to the city and the city was new to Arun Jaitley. He wasn't even aware of who the party office-bearers were. Puri has been in regular touch with the local BJP leadership and has also created a contact with the people here through public meetings. As urban development minister, he had the opportunity to understand the problems of Amritsar city and he has also worked on these. The city is already in the list of Smart Cities and it would be advantage for Amritsar if he is elected as MP from here."
No more polarisation of Sikh votes
There was strong polarisation of votes when Jaitley was facing a strong Sikh leader in 2014. But now, the BJP hopes that the same will not happen this time to work in favour of Congress candidate and MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla.
"In fact, Puri is a 'sabat surat' (with unshorn hair) Sikh while Aujla trims his beard," said a BJP leader.
"Sikh voters who never voted for Congress had voted for Amarinder in 2014. But now Amarinder is not contesting and Puri is a big relief for Sikh voters who don't want to vote for Congress due to 1984," said an Akali leader.
Congress pided but Akalis have 'do or die' on rural constituency
Aujla put a united show of sitting Congress MLAs during his filing of nomination papers on Tuesday.
"There are clear instructions for all MLAs from high command to help Aujla. We hope that Puri will not be able to take advantage of this pide," said a Congress leader.
Amritsar is a Jatt-dominating seat with four rural constituencies and as a non-Jatt, Puri will have to rely on alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal Badal to score votes here.
BJP leadership to prove itself
There is a pide in BJP too in the city but it may be the last chance for many BJP leaders to prove their mettle. All BJP MLAs were defeated in Amritsar and it would be unlikely that they get a ticket again if they fail to prove the tally for Puri.
"BJP is a coder base party. We have a fixed vote bank that will automatically come for Puri and then our cadre will work to swing more votes. Things were different into 2017 when there was anti-incumbency against SAD-BJP state government and false propaganda was pushed against us. But now the anti-incumbency is against the Congress government. Congress leaders have only made announcements during last 2 years and have did nothing they cannot show a single brick added to the city. We still have our projects to show to public despite being in opposition and Congress has none despite being in power," said Rajesh Kumar.
RSS-BJP cadre will come back
A large number of RSS and BJP workers, It is true that, especially in Amritsar East, the constituency of Navjot Singh Sidhu, had voted for Sidhu despite the fact that he was contesting on a Congress ticket for the first time.
"At that time, Sidhu had also avoided speaking against Modi and BJP. But now he has lost that advantage. That 2017 advantage will not work this election for Sidhu and Congress and the RSS-BJP cadre will stand behind Puri. He will have hardly any issue in securing the Hindu vote bank due to Narendra Modi," said local RSS leader.
"There is nothing about Puri that you can hate. He is a humble person and people would like him. He has remained a clean officer all his life. His honesty is his advantage especially when he is contesting against a Congress candidate who is a property dealer," said BJP Amritsar president6 Rajesh Kumar Honey.