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|December 5, 1997||
Gujral's Jalandhar seat may strain BJP-Akali ties
The Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Punjab might come under strain in case Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral decides to contest the coming mid-term poll from Jalandhar, which elected him to the ninth Lok Sabha in 1989.
The ruling Akali Dal has offered to support Gujral's candidature from Jalandhar to express its gratitude -- the prime minister waived Rs 85 billion aid to the state at Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's behest.
Its ally, the BJP, has, however, been reluctant to endorse the Akalis's generosity towards the prime minister.
When Chief Minister Badal made the offer of a safe seat for Gujral a few months ago, BJP vice-president Madan Lal Khurana, who is in charge of Punjab affairs in the party, declared that no decision had been taken by the alliance to leave Jalandhar for the prime minister.
Addressing a BJP rally at Ludhiana on November 23, Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma endorsed his party colleague Khurana's views.
When the Akali Dal-BJP government held a ''thanksgiving rally'' in the prime minister's honour at Jalandhar in October, the BJP did not participate in the event. State party president Daya Singh Sodhi did not turn up at the rally. However, BJP leader Balram Das Tandon addressed the rally in his capacity as a state minister.
The city is a traditional Congress stronghold. The party has won nine of 12 Lok Sabha elections, including one by-election, held from the city.
Besides Gujral, a Janata Dal candidate who won the seat in 1989 with Akali and BJP support, the other two non-Congress candidates elected from Jalandhar are Iqbal Singh Dhillon in 1977 and Darbara Singh who was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha last year. Both were elected on Akali tickets.
Political observers said if the BJP did not go along with its Akali partner in supporting Gujral, the prime minister would have to work hard to repeat his 1989 performance, notwithstanding the bounty he has showered on Jalandhar.
During his two visits to the city, Gujral has given it a science city, a Rs 250 million grant for a medical institute, Rs 100 million for the city's drinking water supply and committed funds for the state's first technical university. He also sanctioned two flyovers for the city.
The city's residents are aware that it was because of Gujral's efforts as Indira Gandhi's information and broadcasting minister that a Doordarshan Kendra was set up in the city instead of at Amritsar, where the state's first television station was launched in the seventies.
Of the nine assembly segments of the Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency, four are held by the Congress, three by the Akali Dal (Badal) and two by the BJP.
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