13 May, 2021

Lok Sabha Elections: The Amritsar Campaign

Amritsar is the most prestigious contest in Punjab for the BJP, which fielded a Sikh here this time—Hardeep Singh Puri, minister of state for ­housing and urban development in the Modi government.

Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Lok Sabha Elections: The Amritsar Campaign

Rahul Gandhi confidant Sam Pitroda’s “hua to hua” (whatever happened happened) remark about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots dramatically alt­ered the mood in Punjab as it went to polls in the last phase of the general elections. It touched the rawest nerve in recent Sikh history, putting the Congr­ess’s state unit on the defensive. And it was a shot in the arm for Shiro­mani Akali Dal-BJP ­alliance candidates who needed it in the final lap of the race.

The change was most evid­ent in Amritsar—seat of the Sikh community’s holiest shrine, where the army’s Operation Blue Star in June 1984 set off a chain of tragic events later that year, including the assassination of then PM Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, which was followed by massacres of Sikhs in Delhi and other parts of India. Both BJP national president Amit Shah, who visited Amritsar in the campaign’s final phase, and PM Narendra Modi, who came in the penultimate phase of the election, seized upon the Congress gaffe about the 1984...

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