By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, May 30 (IANS) Hardeep Singh Puri unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary election from Punjab’s Amritsar, the seat known for the holiest of Sikh shrines — Harmandir Sahib — popularly known as the Golden Temple, but he developed a bond with the city and its people in his maiden electoral battle.
After witnessing the embarrassing defeat of its high-profile candidate Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Puri, a Sikh but non-Jat, was the second Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to have lost the seat at the height of a Modi wave.
The diplomat-turned-politician faced a tough straight fight in the constituency dominated by the Jat community, and lost by 99,626 votes to the Congress’ Gurjit Aujla.
A 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Puri was among the two Sikh ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led outgoing NDA government at the Centre.
Often accompanied by Punjab BJP President Shwait Malik and by his wife Laxmi Puri, also a career diplomat, Puri, an urban Sikh having roots in the national capital, carried out a vigorous campaign in Amritsar from where Jaitley was defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by the Congress’ Amarinder Singh.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had won this seat by a margin of more than a lakh votes by defeating Jaitley. At that time, the SAD-BJP combine was in power in the state.
The Amritsar seat was represented by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu from 2004 to 2014 when he was with the BJP. Sidhu is now a cabinet minister in the Congress government in Punjab.
Following his win in Amritsar, Singh led the Congress to a thumping victory in the Punjab elections in February 2017.
He quit as the Amritsar MP before the Assembly polls and Aujla was fielded by the Congress for the by-election, which the latter won by over 1.97 lakh votes, defeating the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party candidates in a triangular fight.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])