Amritsar, May 20 : Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley was largely seen as the party’s suave, urbane and television-savvy face, but when he came face to face with the urban voters in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, he was definitely given a thumbs down by them.
Jaitley, who is now facing the humiliation of being the only one among the topmost party leaders to have faced defeat at a time when the Narendra Modi-wave gave the Bharatiya Janata Party big gains in the entire north belt, suffered at the hands of Amritsar city voters.
What was worse for the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha was the fact that this was the first popular election he was contesting in his political career. Besides, he lost even when the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance is in power in Punjab.
Jaitley was defeated comprehensively by former Punjab chief minister and Congress candidate Amarinder Singh by a margin of over 100,000 votes.
In all the city-based assembly segments, Jaitley trailed comprehensively behind Amarinder. The margins in the five assembly segments – three of them held by Akali Dal-BJP legislators – ranged from 18,726 to 36,957 votes.
The BJP had unceremoniously replaced its sitting MP, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had won here in 2004, 2007 (by-election) and 2009, this time and fielded Jaitley.
The move was the outcome of Sidhu being at political and personal loggerheads of the top Akali Dal-BJP leadership in the state.
Sidhu had run-ins with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Akali Dal president and Sukhbir’s brother-in-law, and powerful Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Sidhu, whose grouse was the neglect of Amritsar in development matters, was openly opposed by BJP minister and local legislator Anil Joshi.
In the Amritsar east assembly segment, which is represented by Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur, Jaitley trailed by nearly 32,200 votes. In Joshi’s Amritsar north segment, Jaitley trailed by 18,726 votes.
“The Amritsar urban voter completely rejected Arun Jaitley. There was an overwhelming response to Amarinder Singh. Even though voters know that Amarinder is not known to devote too much time in his constituencies, they opted for him. This shows his personal charisma in the region where he was as much an outsider as Jaitley was,” entrepreneur Harpreet Singh told IANS.
Sidhu did not visit the Amritsar constituency even once during the entire campaign despite acknowledging that Jaitley was his mentor in the BJP.
Amarinder also had the lead over Jaitley in the assembly segments of Attari and Ajnala, which are outside the holy city.
Jaitley mustered a good lead only in the Majitha assembly seat, which is the home turf of minister Majithia, by over 20,000 votes. He also led in the Rajasansi assembly seat by over 15,000 votes.
“It was the over-confidence of Majithia and Joshi that became the undoing for Jaitley. The Badals too backed both of them. They have all paid the price of ignoring Sidhu. They took the Amritsar voters too lightly. It is a good political lesson for them,” an Akali Dal legislator from a seat adjoining Amritsar district, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had fielded a popular city-based eye surgeon, Daljit Singh, could not make much impact on the Amritsar seat as he could manage only 82,633 votes.
The AAP won four out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state – the only seats it won in the entire country in this election.