Amritsar Lok Sabha seat: History, candidates and key issues

As the Lok Sabha elections approach, the political fervour in Amritsar is palpable. Known for its historical and cultural significance, Amritsar has a rich political legacy and has always been a focal point in Punjab’s electoral landscape. The city, which played a pivotal role during the Indian independence movement, continues to be a significant political […]

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, BJP candidate in Amritsar
Taranjit Singh Sandhu, BJP candidate in Amritsar

As the Lok Sabha elections approach, the political fervour in Amritsar is palpable. Known for its historical and cultural significance, Amritsar has a rich political legacy and has always been a focal point in Punjab’s electoral landscape. The city, which played a pivotal role during the Indian independence movement, continues to be a significant political hub. The Amritsar Lok Sabha seat has seen a variety of political parties and personalities, from the Indian National Congress to the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), competing for dominance. In recent years, the constituency has become a battleground for addressing key issues such as industry, agriculture, commerce, tourism, and law enforcement.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded a high-profile candidate, Arun Jaitley, who was a nationally prominent figure and a key leader within the party. Jaitley’s opponent was Captain Amarinder Singh, a veteran politician and former Chief Minister of Punjab, representing the Indian National Congress (INC). The contest was intense and closely watched, given the stature of both candidates. Ultimately, Captain Amarinder Singh emerged victorious, securing a substantial margin over Jaitley. The results were significant, with Amarinder Singh receiving 482,876 votes compared to Jaitley’s 339,174 votes. This victory highlighted the Congress’s strong presence in Amritsar and showcased Captain Amarinder Singh’s personal popularity in the region.
The 2019 elections brought another notable contest to the forefront. The BJP nominated Hardeep Singh Puri, a distinguished diplomat and then Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs. Competing against him was Gurjit Singh Aujla of the Congress, who had won a by-election in 2017 after Captain Amarinder Singh resigned from the Lok Sabha seat to assume the role of Chief Minister of Punjab. In the 2019 elections, Gurjit Singh Aujla managed to retain his seat, securing another term for the Congress. He garnered 484,637 votes, while Hardeep Singh Puri received 336,349 votes. Aujla’s victory was a clear indication of the sustained support for the Congress in Amritsar, even amidst a national wave favoring the BJP.
The outcomes of the last two elections illustrate a significant trend in Amritsar’s political landscape. Despite the BJP’s strong national presence and strategic candidacies, the Congress has consistently maintained its dominance in the constituency. Several factors contribute to this trend. Firstly, candidates like Captain Amarinder Singh and Gurjit Singh Aujla have deep-rooted connections with the local populace, which has translated into electoral success. Secondly, the Congress’s longstanding history and presence in Amritsar have fostered a sense of loyalty among voters. Additionally, effective campaign strategies focusing on local issues and concerns have resonated with the electorate, further solidifying the Congress’s position.
Among the prominent candidates in the 2024 elections is Taranjit Singh Sandhu, representing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Sandhu, a former diplomat, brings a unique perspective to the political arena, with extensive experience in international relations, particularly with the United States and Sri Lanka.

In an exclusive interview, Taranjit Singh Sandhu outlined his vision and strategies for Amritsar’s development if elected.

Q: As a BJP candidate, what specific strategies do you plan to implement for the development of Amritsar, considering its current challenges in various sectors such as industry, agriculture, commerce, tourism, and law enforcement?

Sandhu: “In 2024, Amritsar still faces many challenges that should have been resolved at least a decade ago. Law and order remain critical issues; people feel threatened, and women feel unsafe. While this is primarily a state government responsibility, there are constitutional alternatives if the state fails to act. My campaign focuses on enhancing security and creating employment opportunities for the youth, particularly through initiatives in agriculture and industry. Improving connectivity, such as maximising the cargo capacity at the airport, can significantly boost local industries. I plan to engage with global companies like Lulu, Costco, Walmart, and Amazon to market Amritsar’s products worldwide. These measures will help develop the city comprehensively.”

Q: Transitioning from a career in diplomacy to politics, how do you perceive the role of public service in both spheres, and how will your diplomatic experience benefit the people of Amritsar if you win the elections?

Sandhu: “Both diplomacy and politics are public services. With 36 years of diplomatic service, I’ve fostered strong India-US relations, creating numerous job opportunities. Amritsar needs such connections to progress. I can bridge Amritsar with Delhi and international markets, especially the United States. This will attract investments, nurture startups, and provide earning opportunities for the youth, encouraging them to stay rather than migrate abroad.”

Q: With your background in diplomacy, particularly in countries like the United States and Sri Lanka, how do you intend to leverage your connections and expertise to attract investments, promote startups, and enhance tourism in Amritsar?

Sandhu: “Connectivity is crucial. Direct flights from Rajasansi airport to the United States and Canada are essential. Promoting a startup culture, supported by the Punjabi diaspora in the USA, which has already raised substantial funds for Amritsar, will drive development. This financial support will be pivotal for local growth.”

Q: Reflecting on your experience in fostering India-US relations during your diplomatic tenure, how do you envision further strengthening bilateral ties, particularly in areas such as trade, technology cooperation, and strategic partnership, if elected as a representative from Amritsar?

Sandhu: “Technology is key to solving many of Amritsar’s issues, such as sewerage and water management. Leveraging technology from the United States, we can implement effective solutions. The U.S. is a tech powerhouse, and we can attract investments from major companies like Google, IBM, and Apple to Amritsar. Strengthening bilateral ties will also bring in more trade and strategic partnerships.”

Q: Considering the evolving dynamics in global geopolitics, including the Indo-Pacific region, how do you see India’s strategic alignment and cooperation enhancing with the United States to address our shared challenges and promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the region?

Sandhu: “The Indo-Pacific is a significant geopolitical area, with ongoing tensions between India and China. India’s participation in QUAD highlights its importance. Strengthening cooperation with the U.S. in this region will address shared challenges and promote stability and economic prosperity.”

As the election campaign heats up, Taranjit Singh Sandhu’s blend of diplomatic expertise and deep-rooted local connections offers a compelling vision for Amritsar’s future. The outcome of this election will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of this historic city in the years to come.

Sharanpreet Kaur in an Assistant Professor of International Relations at School of Social Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. She is an alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has a Phd on Indo-US Nuclear and Defence Cooperation. She is the author of the book “India’s Soft Power Diplomacy: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”. She writes on issues related to India’s foreign policy, global political affairs, politics of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.