Amritsar, Punjab: Arun Jaitley has fought several elections for his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as its ace strategist. But it’s his own toughest battle yet in the Lok Sabha polls that is bringing a change in his political style.
Jaitley, 61, has shown since the start of his battle that he can indeed be down to earth and literally take as much dust and heat as any leader.
Beyond his wrangles with Congress nominee Capt Amarinder Singh, Jaitley tries hard-selling his dream plan to end Amritsar’s woes that stare one in the face: jobless youths, dirty and broken roads, lack of proper street lights, insanitation all around, uncontrolled traffic scenes and jams.
Jaitley also minces no words to address concerns related to the drug menace among the youth, which has local tongues wagging to blame some ministers. His decision to buy a house here is to drive home the point that he’s here to stay long after the polls.
Be it at places close to the Wagah border, where he addresses farmers or doctors and other professionals in the city’s “town hall”, Jaitley listens to people and then puts forth what can change for Amritsar. Unlike his opponents who target him, Jaitley tells his audience that the city needs a new economic deal: opening up of the border trade, creation of a tourist hub, a robust manufacturing sector and extensive skill development to end the ills of the youth.
“The region has not grown as an IT (information technology) hub and the drug menace continues to grow unabated. There are no jobs because there is no manufacturing sector. That will change now.” With the Akalis’ support, the Sikh votes, which account for 60% of the electorate, will come to BJP. But it also means Jaitley will have to work harder to win over the city folks where there is resentment over the Akali bigwigs’ behaviour, add local BJP leaders.
Aiding Jaitley is his wife Sangeeta and daughter Sonali, who have pitched in to enthuse BJP youth cadres. Sonali organises the “youth connect”, while Sangeeta visits the old Amritsar (where her grandfather once lived) and other areas to reach out to women.
She tells even those who insist on voting for the AAP nominee (well-known ophthalmologist) Dalbir Singh that “there’s so much to be done here. Don’t waste your vote.”