Arun Jaitley

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections has not turned out well for Arun Jaitley who lost his first election. So what went wrong in this high profile high stakes contest between him and Captain Amrinder Singh?

BJP’s gamble to choose Arun Jaitley over the proven and media savvy Navjyot Singh Siddhu, has failed. Given his stature within the BJP, the logic of choosing Amritsar for his first ever election has raised questions. Could he have chosen a safer seat? What was the strategic plan behind the move? Siddhu was adamant in his stand that if he were to stand it would only be from Amritsar and this stand now seems vindicated.

Actually, both Capt. Amrinder Singh and Arun Jaitley were initially reluctant candidates for Amritsar. While Sonia Gandhi prevailed upon Capt. to stand from Amritsar, the BJP’s party high command chose Jaitley over Siddhu, despite internal advice against it.

The approach to the campaigning was distinct for both candidates, who in many ways were ‘outsiders’ to Amritsar. Arun Jaitley’s claim to Amritsar was his wife being born there but that was the closest he could get, while Amrinder Singh had a stronger local connect being the ex-CM.

Working on the anti-incumbency wave against the SAD-BJP in Punjab, Capt. Amrinder Singh showed better political understanding by focusing on local issues and problems being faced by the people of Amritsar. Despite being a Lok Sabha election campaign, in all his rallies he focused on the lack of development of infrastructure, sanitation, employment opportunities and the growing problem of drugs and alcohol abuse amongst the youth.

This was in stark contrast to the approach taken by Arun Jaitley, who focused on the National appeal of Narendra Modi and what the BJP led government could do for the country. He was unable to position himself as the champion for local problems. Very obviously this didn’t connect well with the local population that was more concerned with mitigating local problems.

Being a member of the upper house, Arun Jaitley can still be appointed a Cabinet Rank but losing his first election will certainly not strengthen his position within the party.