Amritsar: Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who passed away on Saturday in Delhi after prolonged illness, had a connection with this Sikh holy city in Punjab – from relatives to the famous ‘Amritsari kulchas’.
In his debut Lok Sabha election in 2014, which he lost to Congress’ Amarinder Singh, he said he had a greater Amritsar connection than his political rival.
“If you ask me about my ancestral town, I would say Amritsar as I have at least 40 cousins and relatives who live here. I have been politically closely connected with Punjab and my base was always Amritsar. I know all the party workers here,” he was often quoted as saying in his interactions with voters.
In his first and last electoral battle in his political career spanning over four decades, he had said that he was excited to be in the fray from Amritsar for two reasons.
“Firstly, I am a Punjabi belonging to Amritsar, and secondly I want to serve my constituency by using my influence with the new government coming,” he had said.
His favourite local food was ‘Amritsari kulchas’, a local delicacy.
“I am getting a regular supply of ‘Amritsari kulchas’ even when I am in Delhi,” he had said.
Amarinder Singh, who is now the Chief Minister, had won this seat by a margin of more than a lakh votes by defeating Jaitley. At that time, the SAD-BJP combine was in power in the state.
Amarinder Singh mourned Jaitley’s demise, saying “My thoughts are with his family.”
“Sad to hear that former Union Minister Arun Jaitley ji has passed away. My thoughts are with his family in this time of grief. May his soul rest in peace,” Amarinder Singh tweeted.
Not attributing his defeat to the Akali Dal, Jaitley had said: “I cannot attribute my defeat to the Akali Dal. Local factors had gone against us. We could not remove them during the campaign.”
Then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is known for his proximity to the BJP top leadership, said Jaitley’s loss “has been a blot on the Akali Dal-BJP leadership jointly”.
Badal, who devoted the maximum time in canvassing for Jaitley, had tried to lure the voters by claiming that if they elect Jaitley, they will have the next deputy prime minister from Amritsar.
During the campaigning in 2014, Amarinder Singh often accused Jaitley of being a ‘pseudo’ Punjabi and a ‘guest from Delhi’.
At this, he replied: “Despite my ancestral roots in Punjab, Captain Sahib (Amarinder Singh) called me an ‘outsider’ and a ‘pseudo’ Punjabi. Will he be kind enough to tell me which state in India does the Congress President (Sonia Gandhi) belong to?”
“I will rather ask him why he is still so obsessed with a mindset of ‘Maharaja’. He is a monarch in a democracy. He is too much obsessed with himself. Even feudalism has not gone out of his head. He is always rude and thinks he has the right to insult others. He is the discredited captain of a sinking ship,” Jaitley had said.
Jaitley, who had promised the electorate that he will set up his residential base here, had bought a house in the posh Green Avenue area of the city ahead of the polling.
Senior BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, who belongs to this city and was known for his proximity to Jaitley, condoled his death.
Chhina told IANS that Jaitley was a bridge between the SAD-BJP alliance in the state.
Recalling Jaitley’s association with Amritsar city, he said: “He knew all the eating joints in the city. His love for the city was matchless as this city was his ‘nanaka’ (maternal parents’s home). He would always say that the Hindu-Sikh unity was paramount in Punjab and thus was the votary for the long lasting SAD-BJP political partnership”.