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SAD is contesting the Gurdaspur LS seat on party symbol for the first time in 26 years

After severing ties with the BJP, the Akali Dal is all set to contest the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat on party symbol ‘takdi’ or bowl for the first time since 1996 as it braces for a showdown with its former ally who has used star power to cling to the seat repeatedly.

The Shiromani Akali Dal had joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1996. As part of the seat-sharing arrangement for Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha constituencies, the BJP used to contest from Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.

The SAD left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 2020 over the now repealed farm laws.

The SAD left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 2020 over the now repealed farm laws.

The Sukhbir Singh Badal-led SAD has placed its bet on the party’s senior vice-president and veteran leader Daljit Singh Cheema from the seat.

“The SAD workers are excited about the party fielding its own candidate from Gurdaspur and are happy to see the party symbol ‘takdi’. There is an emotional bond with the symbol,” Cheema told PTI.

Cheema, an MBBS doctor, said the SAD had last contested from Gurdaspur in the 1996 general elections and party candidate Jagdish Singh Walia came second.

Dismissing BJP’s accusation that he was an “outsider”, Cheema said he was born in Mari Buchian village in Sri Hargobindpur and had studied at the village school. He said he had contested his first election in 2002 from Sri Hargobindpur assembly seat in Gurdaspur.

The BJP has managed to hold on to the seat by unseating Bollywood stars like Vinod Khanna and Sunny Deol from the seat.

This time, however, it has named local leader and former MLA Dinesh Singh Babbu as its candidate – a move that 62-year-old Cheema attributed to the ‘negativity’ faced by the BJP.

The BJP had announced on March 26 that it would contest solo in the general elections in Punjab. The party named Babbu in its list of eight candidates for the Lok Sabha elections on March 30.

The BJP is facing ‘negativity’ in the constituency where it is fielding film actors. The party has been dependent on film actors because it “failed to find suitable local candidates,” Cheema said.

“The BJP had fielded candidates from outside and it was the SAD that ensured their victory,” he said, referring to the past alliance with the BJP.

The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat used to be a Congress bastion before the BJP roped in Bollywood star Khanna and removed him from the constituency in 1998.

Khanna defeated five-time Congress MP Sukhban’s Kaur Bhinder and won again in 1999, 2004 and 2014. Khanna lost the seat in 2009 to Congress candidate Partap Singh Bajwa.

After Khanna’s death in 2017, Congress’ Sunil Jakhar won the 2017 bypoll. In the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP fielded Deol, who won the seat.

Joking at Deol for his “absence” in the constituency, Cheema said there were ‘gumshuda’ or missing posters against the actor-turned-politician in the constituency.

On Babbu’s candidature, Cheema said the BJP was ‘forced’ to field him as people in the constituency were fed up with para-dropping of film actors.

“Babbu (when he was MLA) never spoke in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He didn’t speak a single word. What will such people do in Parliament,” asked Cheema, Education Minister in the former Akali government.

During his campaign, Babbu faced the wrath of farmers protesting against the BJP-led central government, which, among other things, did not allow agitators into Delhi and failed to provide a legal guarantee for MSP.

A group of farmers on Saturday showed black flags to Babbu while he was campaigning in Gurdaspur. On April 21, he also faced the wrath of the farmers in Batala.

On the Kartarpur corridor, Cheema said a permit system should be introduced by doing away with the requirement of passports so that more and more people can pray at the historic gurdwara in Pakistan.

The corridor connects Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, with the Dera Baba Nanak Shrine in Gurdaspur district.

Cheema called for a special package for the border areas to boost industrialization and also highlighted tax incentives for industries in Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

From Gurdaspur seat, AAP has fielded Batala MLA Amansher Singh Kalsi while Congress is yet to name its candidate.

Elections to the thirteen Lok Sabha seats in Punjab will take place on June 1.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)