The un-expected always happens. Amritsarparliamentary constituency was represented by cricketer and TV celebrity Navajot Singh for 3 terms on behalf of the BJP. Siddhu was always easilyelected as the BJP had an alliance with the Akali Dal. Amritsar had always a painfulmemory of the Congress since this was the place where the Army had to enter the famous Golden temple in 1984, the most holiest of shrines for the Sikhs.
NavjyotSiddhuhad ego issues with the Badal family and the Akali Dal insisted that BJP change its candidate. The BJP had to findssomeone of suitable stature and acceptability to replace Siddhu and who better than the Leader of the Opposition ArunJaitley. Jaitley is a famous Punjabi. It was expected to be very smooth sailing .ArunJaitleyhas been in the Rajyasabha for the last 20 years. Jaitley wanted to win a direct election to get a pro-people image when it forms a government. Jaitleywas ambitious and Amritsar was the most prestigious Lok Sabha seat of Punjab.
ArunJaitley’s name was announced and he visitedAmritsar with great fanfare andonly the margin of victory remained for Election Day. But the Congress had other plans. Obviously, Sonia Gandhi felt that ArunJaitley was a key supporter of NarendraModi and hence this was a good opportunity to derail ArunJaitley. Suddenly Ex- Chief Minister of Punjab and Maharaja of Patiala, Capt. AmarinderSingh’s name was announced. Initially, this did not cause much worry in the BJP camp. They felt that Amarinder Singh had lost some of his lustre and could be defeated. The AkaliDal gave all assurances to ArunJaitley.
But things are not going according to plan. The initially reluctantAmarinder Singh became hyper-active and started campaigning with fullenergy. He suddenly became the more powerful candidate in Amritsar. While ArunJaitley is highly erudite and a Supremecourt lawyer, Amarinder Singh was an ex-Army man and educated enough to hit back with wit and sarcasm and had enough language in his armoury to start worrying ArunJaitley.
We usually under-estimate our opponents and obviously in the initial stages, ArunJaitley must have believed diverse stories that Amarinder Singh was lazy and was not capable of running a good campaign. ArunJaitley must have also assumed that in the war of words, Amarinder Singh would lose to him. Here also, Jaitley received a surprise because in the initial skirmishingAmarinder Singh came out on top and put Jaitley on the defensive.
It is still early to say whether anyone has the front-runner’s status in Amritsar. But the bets are on Amarinder Singh. Tilla day before, NavjyotSiddhu kept saying that ArunJaitley washis guru and he was going to campaign for him. But suddenly, even Siddhu sensed that the seat was in danger and it isbetterhe not dirty his hands by canvassing for a loser. NavjyotSiddhu announced that he will not canvass for ArunJaitley. This is a sure sign that ArunJaitley is on the backfoot.
The election is still far away. But ArunJaitley must have realised that he fell victim to the games of the Congress party. In some seats, the Congress party has decided to field strong candidates to confine some BJP leaders to their constituency. The Congress also wanted to take some personal revenge wherever possible. ArunJaitleyis extremely close to NarendraModi. The Congress wanted to teach him a lesson. If ArunJaitely loses the Amritsar Parliament seat, then he will lose his aura and halo. Even if a BJP governmentis formed, Jaitley will be on the defensive and will have to fend off criticism that he was rejected by the people. Jaitley must be ruing the day he walked into the Congress trap.
The opponents of Jaitley in the BJP are exultant. The problem for Jaitley is that the Akali dal is itself facing severe anti-incumbency. Jaitley must not have read the famous 19th century economist Proudhon who famously coined the phrase “the fecundity of the un-expected “. For Jaitley ,Amrtisar seems to be very fecund in its bad surprises. He may yet win. But this was a fight ArunJaitley never bargained for.