Had to get to the border to write this report, for this is where the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency begins and ends. And though it's peace at the borders, a battle is on in the constituency, a triangular fight between a seasoned parliamentarian, a royal icon in these parts and an unknown political face with an eye on winning the battle, and the war.
For the seasoned parliamentarian, it happens to be baptism with fire. Arun Jaitley has never fought a Lok Sabha election so far in his long political career. He has always made it to parliament by way of preference votes, and into the hallowed hall of the Rajya Sabha, where he did rather well too, without once walking into the well of the House. He continues to be the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha even as he tries his luck in the LS elections.
And it's not easy going for the tactician-strategist of the BJP. He faces several so-called flaws coming into these elections, and the one he was compelled to face the day he stepped into the arena (i.e., Amritsar) was the allegation that he was an "Outsider".
Congress candidate Capt. Amrinder Singh threw that "arrow" at Jaitley and for a while it stuck with Jaitley to the discomfort of the BJP. But then came the counter-attack: Capt. Singh, too, is an Outsider; he belongs to Patiala! Never a bigger Patiala peg made out of the Outsider 'taint'.
That made Jaitley a mite happy but it gave the third party to the dispute, the Aam Aadmi Party, sole ownership of the "native" tag, "our on boy" who has seen 80 summers and winters and is still spritely. "He'll always be home with us," so said an AAP supporter.
On Friday, Jaitley, who was till yesterday making flying trips to Amritsar from Delhi, where he has been making what the Congress labeled wild statements, returned to the constituency and announced that he would not be leaving till the last vote is cast on April 30. That said, he took off on a campaign tour of the constituency, holding rallies in the rural hinterland and addressing members of the sports cell of the BJP.
The Congress, meanwhile, has stepped up the attack on Jaitley. A week ago Amrinder Singh questioned Jaitley's loyalty to Modi, stating that Jaitley's stated aim was to limit BJP numbers in the 16th LS to 160, calling Jaitley a member of "Club 160". The way it was said it sounded like "Club 160" was a clandestine group of traitors in the BJP, a sleeper cell that will "wake up" when Modi will be limited by numbers.
The Capt's sudden sympathy for Modi and the motive behind it haven't gone unnoticed, but it has in a way hit Jaitley, though the BJP blunted the attack on Jaitley with its own rhetoric. The Capt., it's being told, has several other arrows in his quiver which he will draw and fire at Jaitley in the coming days. Whether they will stick and stay is another matter, as people in Amritsar have a "thing" for Modi and that will take Jaitley to the Lok Sabha.
The counter to this is quite Sikh. The theory is that, even with the Akalis supporting Jaitley, it would take a miracle for Jaitley to win over the Sikh votes; that 64% of the electorate is Sikh and they "massively" vote in favour of the Capt., and those left will cast for AAP candidate Dr Daljeet Singh, Cleary, the effort is to stress to the point of diminishing returns that Jaitley is, was, and will be an Outsider. Period.
Balrah Sharma, an aam aadmi volunteer supporting the AAP, says Jaitley and the Capt will be routed out as both of them are Outsiders. "We'll win," he says, an AAP badge pinned on his chest. "We'll take both of them out."
To that Jaitley said on Friday. "We (BJP) have reached that kinaara (riverbank), from where we'll just have to make the crossing and take over the reins of the country. We'll will in Amritsar, just stick around till D-day," he said at Khanna Smarak, the district BJP headquarters, these days one of the busiest buildings in this city of the Golden Temple.