Shiromani Akali Dal fields Hindu Candidate Anil Joshi in Sikh-Dominated Amritsar, stirs Congress

Shiromani Akali Dal fields Hindu Candidate Anil Joshi in Sikh-Dominated Amritsar, stirs Congress

Chandigarh. Contrary to its traditional image as a panthic party representing Sikh interests, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has taken a surprising turn by nominating former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Anil Joshi, a Hindu candidate, for the Amritsar parliamentary constituency.

The decision to nominate Joshi has sparked internal debates within the Punjab Congress as well. During a recent meeting to discuss potential candidates for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, supporters of senior party leader OP Soni and sitting MP Gurjeet Aujla clashed over the choice of a candidate. Ultimately, the Congress decided to stick with Aujla.

Amritsar, a city with a significant Sikh majority, has witnessed political shifts over the years, with Congress largely dominating the scene since the 1952 parliamentary elections.

The political landscape changed in 2004 when Navjot Singh Sidhu, representing the BJP, clinched victory thrice consecutively. However, the tide turned against the BJP in 2014 when Arun Jaitley, a Hindu candidate, suffered a defeat against Congress stalwart Captain Amarinder Singh. Gurjeet Singh Aujla, representing the Congress, emerged victorious in both the 2014 and 2017 elections.

Despite this historical trend, the SAD, often perceived as a party dominated by Jats and Sikhs, has chosen to field a Hindu candidate in Anil Joshi. Joshi, who joined the SAD in August 2021 following his expulsion from the BJP, marks a departure from the party's previous strategy, especially considering its alliance with the BJP, which traditionally held the Amritsar seat.

In the upcoming elections, Joshi will face stiff competition from Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the former Indian ambassador to the US, representing the BJP, and Punjab Cabinet minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Former cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia is leading Joshi's election campaign, marking a significant turnaround in their previously strained relationship. After the defeat of Jaitley in 2014, local BJP leaders, including Joshi, had blamed Majithia for the unexpected loss.

Despite SAD's dwindling influence since 2014, the party remains hopeful that Joshi's candidacy will attract support from both Hindu and Sikh voters, particularly in areas like Majitha, Rajasansi, Ajnala, and Attari.

Joshi's tenure as a local body minister from 2012 to 2017 saw several development projects in Amritsar North, his former constituency. However, allegations of disproportionate allocation of funds to his constituency have dogged him, despite his defeat in the 2017 and 2022 elections.

In the upcoming polls, Joshi's success will hinge on his ability to connect with voters, both Hindu and Sikh, and navigate the complex political landscape of Amritsar. His performance will also be influenced by the BJP candidate's campaign and OP Soni's future actions.

Ultimately, Joshi's electoral fate rests on the SAD's ability to reclaim its traditional voter base and appeal to both rural and urban constituencies in Amritsar.


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