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Down but not out, Puri retains Cabinet berth (Profile)

Chandigarh, May 30 (IANS) Hardeep Singh Puri unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary election from Punjab’s Amritsar, the seat known for the holiest of Sikh shrines — Harmandir Sahib — popularly known as the Golden Temple, but he developed a bond with the city and its people in his maiden electoral battle.

Hardeep Singh Puri, 66, a former student leader who fought college elections in Delhi University with ABVP support, has got a place in the new Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After witnessing the embarrassing defeat of its high-profile candidate Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Puri, a Sikh but non-Jat, was the second Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to have lost the seat at the height of a Modi wave.

The diplomat-turned-politician faced a tough straight fight in the constituency dominated by the Jat community, and lost by 99,626 votes to the Congress’ Gurjit Aujla.

A 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Puri was among the two Sikh ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led outgoing NDA government at the Centre.

Often accompanied by Punjab BJP President Shwait Malik and by his wife Laxmi Puri, also a career diplomat, Puri, an urban Sikh having roots in the national capital, carried out a vigorous campaign in Amritsar from where Jaitley was defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by the Congress’ Amarinder Singh.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh 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.

The Amritsar seat was represented by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu from 2004 to 2014 when he was with the BJP. Sidhu is now a cabinet minister in the Congress government in Punjab.

Following his win in Amritsar, Singh led the Congress to a thumping victory in the Punjab elections in February 2017.

He quit as the Amritsar MP before the Assembly polls and Aujla was fielded by the Congress for the by-election, which the latter won by over 1.97 lakh votes, defeating the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party candidates in a triangular fight.

(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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