"But people in the Sikh holy city will definitely want that Amarinder Singh and Jaitley are able to deliver."
By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, July 3 - The electorate in Amritsar may have preferred former Punjab chief minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh over BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley, now the country's powerful finance and defence minister, in the recent Lok Sabha polls. Residents of the Sikh holy city and the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency are now wondering whether they would be able to get the best out of these two towering political leaders.

While Jaitley, after the May 16 election results and the formation of the Narendra Modi government at the centre has not dropped in to check out with the Amritsar electorate, Amarinder Singh came only last week, over a month after he was elected as a member of parliament on a thanksgiving trip.

From the Jaitley camp, his wife and daughter landed up in Amritsar to offer prayers at the Golden Temple around the same time when Amarinder Singh was touring the constituency.

The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which has an alliance government in Punjab with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is part of the Modi government at the centre being an ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Congress leadership in Punjab have, in recent days, exchanged barbs over the absence of the top leaders from the Amritsar constituency.

Anil Joshi, a BJP minister in the Punjab government, fired the first salvo earlier this month, charging Amarinder Singh with not visiting the constituency even once after his victory. Joshi got it back from top Congress leaders who questioned Jaitley's absence from Amritsar after his defeat.

Amarinder Singh had defeated Jaitley by over 100,000 votes in a high-profile and bitter election. Even the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine could not ensure Jaitley's victory in the first popular election that he contested. The defeat left the Akali Dal and the BJP thoroughly embarrassed.

Amarinder Singh, when his name was announced for the Amritsar seat, was a reluctant candidate. He had made it clear to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi that he would not be able to do justice to the people of Amritsar as he would not be able to visit the constituency that regularly. Still, the Amritsar electorate chose and elected him by a big margin despite the pro-Modi wave in the region.

Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile Patiala royal family and spends most of his time in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Patiala, has now taken up a house in the Green Avenue locality. He has even set up an office in Amritsar's Court Road.

During the election campaign, Jaitley, who is a Delhi resident, had purchased a 340-square yard house in Green Avenue to signal that he was here to stay in Amritsar. But, with his present engagements, Amritsar residents are unlikely to see much of him.

The Amritsar electorate is kind of used to having a missing MP. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was elected from Amritsar in 2004, 2007 (by-election) and 2009, had done the vanishing act from the constituency for long periods ranging from three to over eight months. He used to stop coming owing to his commitments on television shows and also due to his differences with BJP and Akali leaders.

But people in the Sikh holy city will definitely want that Amarinder Singh and Jaitley are able to deliver.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])


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