The BJP finally chose sitting MP Kirron Kher over city BJP chief Sanjay Tandon as its candidate for the May 19 Lok Sabha poll after a long and tantalising wait that fuelled endless speculation in the city. While Kher, who has been campaigning relentlessly, was expectedly overjoyed, the news was received with dismay by many in the BJP, who had been rooting for Tandon.
Soon after the announcement, Kher tweeted her thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Arun Jaitley and the BJP family for reposing their faith in her. ''Above all thanks to Chandigarh for having utmost trust in me, I hope I have served you well and I vow that I will continue doing so in future,'' she wrote.
Sanjay Tandon, who was in the race for the seat, congratulated Kher and welcomed her nomination. He said the party is united. "I assure you that all the BJP workers will work wholeheartedly to make Narendra Modiji Prime Minister again."
Tandon, whose father governor Balramji Dass Tandon, passed away last year, was hopeful of getting the ticket following the BJP's stellar performance in the MC elections under his leadership last year. It was widely believed that he had not got the ticket in 2014 because of the party's one family-one post principle.
Ironically, the Congress camp too welcomed her candidature, saying that now Chandigarh will be a cakewalk for them.
Kher, who was caught on camera making faces when Tandon was addressing a joint press conference last month, went to his residence in Sector 18 soon after the official announcement and tweeted about the visit.
Kher called on former MP Satya Pal Jain, the third contender for the ticket, as well and tweeted that she was grateful for his support. Kher also went to the house of sangh chalak Triloki Nath Goyal and tweeted her picture at his residence.
The long wait
The inordinate delay in this announcement had led to rumours that Kher was being denied the ticket due to opposition from the RSS. Some party leaders also claimed that she did not fare well in the surveys they had conducted in the city but would get the ticket due to lobbying by her husband Anupam Kher, who had starred in the Accidental Prime Minister.
Kher, however, was confident of her candidature right from the outset as she went on an inauguration overdrive before the code of conduct came into place on March 10. Kher started laying the ground for her campaign way back in January by increasing her social media footprint, tweeting several times a day and posting pictures of her events and achievements.
The MP, who was known for being inaccessible and temperamental, has been camping in the city for the last few months besides getting close to the residents with her 'coffee with Kirron' initiative that she shared regularly on the social media.
Known for her sharp comments, the actor-turned-politician had courted controversy in November 2017 for victim-shaming a 21-year-old rape victim by saying that she should not have boarded an auto when she saw that three men were already sitting in it.
Kher's first innings
Last time, Kher had defeated Bansal, a four-time MP from Chandigarh, by a margin of over 69,000 votes. Kher had polled over 1.9 lakh votes while Bansal could get 1.21 lakh votes. Although the Aam Aadmi Party had also fielded a celebrity in Gul Panag, also a debutant, she secured third position.
Percentage-wise, the BJP had got 42.40 per cent votes, while the Congress got 26.84 per cent and the AAP secured 23.97 per cent votes, out of 4,53,455 votes counted in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
In the run-up to 2014 polls too, Kher had faced tough resistance from within the BJP. Disgruntled party workers had even burnt her effigies, thrown tomatoes at her cavalcade and showed her black flags when the BJP announced her as its nominee from Chandigarh.
Then in the BJP, Harmohan Dhawan (who is now AAP's nominee from Chandigarh), too had strongly protested against Kher's candidature. She was labelled a paratrooper and outsider by the Opposition, but she managed to secure victory for the BJP that had last won in Chandigarh in 1998.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had addressed a massive rally in Chandigarh in her support.