BJP insiders say senior leaders abstained from campaigning for Swaran Singh Salaria, who was defeated by Congress’ Sunil Jakhar by 1.9 lakh votes
New Delhi: A faulty selection of a candidate and lack of involvement of senior BJP leaders in the polling process are being cited as the reasons for the party’s humiliating loss Sunday in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election in Punjab.
Congress candidate Sunil Kumar Jakhar, son of former party leader Balram Jakhar, defeated BJP’s Swaran Singh Salaria by over 1.9 lakh votes.
BJP also suffered a major setback in Kerala where it’s trying to gain ground. The party finished fourth in the Vengara assembly bypoll. The defeat in Kerala comes just after BJP chief Amit Shah and big guns like UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited the state in an attempt to expand the party’s base.
In Gurdaspur, the defeat of Salaria by a huge margin is being seen as the failure of the BJP’s election machinery to compete with a rejuvenated Punjab Congress under the leadership of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Sunil Jakhar is the state Congress president.
According to BJP sources, some leaders had foreseen this defeat given the lack of support for the candidate. There was also a lack of interest on the part of senior leaders and many of them did not take part in the election campaigning, the sources added.
BJP’s loss in the Gurdaspur constituency could prove damaging to the party as it was represented in the Lok Sabha by Bollywood actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna for four terms. Khanna died of cancer this year.
The Congress has termed the bypoll result a rejection of the BJP-SAD alliance by the people of Punjab. Some BJP functionaries, however, played it down saying that one bypoll cannot be called a referendum on the Modi government.
“There had been instances of parties winning local body elections and losing Lok Sabha polls. We knew that the results were not going to be in our favour. This could not be seen as a referendum on the NDA or the BJP,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, some BJP insiders said that the party may revisit its strategy for Kerala where it is trying hard to take on the Left.