Amritsar LS seat race hots up, Sidhu, Chhina to lock horns, resort to 'dinner diplomacy'

By Ravinder Singh Robin, Amritsar, Jan.11 : If the events of last night are any indication, sitting BJP MP Navjot Sidhu and arch rival, and state party vice president, Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, are heading for a major 'show down' in the race for the party's ticket to contest from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

Both leaders resorted to separate 'dinner diplomacy' for respective shows of strength in presence of BJP national organizing secretary Ram Lal.

While Sidhu virtually hijacked Ram Lal from the airport and took him home for hurriedly organized dinner, Chhina, a strong contender for the ticket, organized 'Lohri' (Punjab's traditional festival to welcome winter) function, where he showcased his support base within the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).

Ram Lal further added colour to the ongoing 'dinner diplomacy' when he suddenly arrived at Chhina's residence here today along with senior leadership for breakfast.

Lal held in-camera meeting with Chhina in the presence of state party chief Kamal Sharma and national secretary and party's Punjab affairs co-incharge Shyam Lal Jajju and other state leaders. Following Sidhu showing little interest in Amritsar as he did not even attend the party's delegates meeting yesterday, Chhina is being considered a front runner in the race for the ticket.

There are reports that Sidhu is ineterested in contesting for the BJP from the Delhi (West) seat too.

Both Sidhu and Chhina do not see an eye to eye, ever since the former cricketer opposed Chhina's appointment as chairman of the Amritsar Improvement Trust in 2009.

He also vowed not to return to his home constituency Amritsar if Chhina was not removed from the post.
The party had to take a studied retreat and adjusted Chhina as Chairman of Punjab Small Scale Industries and Export Corporation.

Sidhu was able to get his own protégé Sanjiv Khanna appointed to the post.

The relationship further soured when Sidhu fought with the party to adjust his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu for the Amritsar (East) assembly constituency and Chhina was denied the ticket.

Sidhu who had been staying away from Amritsar and was in the eye of storm for criticizing own BJP-SAD government in state failed to attend the party's delegates meetings here yesterday.

--ANI (Posted on 11-01-2014)

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