Having failed to find a suitable candidate from its existing leadership and cadres in Punjab, the BJP on Tuesday announced the name of Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, son of veteran actor Dharmendra, as the party candidate for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat.
Deol, 62, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi in the presence of Union Ministers Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman.
Another Bollywood actor, Vinod Khanna, was a four-time BJP MP from the Gurdaspur seat. He died in April 2017 due to cancer. He was a sitting MP at that time.
Khanna got elected from here for the first time in 1998, followed by victories in 1999, 2004 and again in 2014. He lost the poll in the 2009 general election to Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa by a small margin. Khanna had won the 2014 election by a thumping margin of over 1.38 lakh votes.
Following Khanna's death, a by-election on this seat was held in October 2017 which was won by the Congress candidate by over 1.93 lakh votes, Sunil Jakhar, who is the Punjab Congress President. Jakhar has been fielded once again from the seat by the Congress (poll symbol is Hand).
Haath of Congress— Keh Ke Peheno (@coolfunnytshirt) April 23, 2019
Dhai Kilo Ka Haath of BJP. #SunnyDeol
The BJP did not give the ticket for the by-election to Khanna's widow, Kavita Khanna, who was a strong claimant for it.
The BJP had on Sunday announced Union Minister of State Hardeep Puri to be its candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat after it could not find a suitable leader for that seat, too.
The party, which has an alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, is contesting three Lok Sabha seats (Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur-SC). The SAD is contesting the remaining 10 seats.
Sunny Deol, whose real name is Ajay Singh Deol, does not have any direct connection with Gurdaspur though his father Dharmendra hails from Sahnewal near Ludhiana.
Deol entered the Hindi film industry with "Betaab" in 1983 and his best hits include "Border", "Damini" and "Gadar...". He has done several ad films also, including the popular one with the dialogue "Yeh dhai kilo ka haath hai..."
Gurdaspur lies in the north of Punjab, sharing an international border with Pakistan and the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir. The area is not as developed as other areas in Punjab.
Polling in Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 19, the seventh and last phase of the general elections.