Union minister Hardeep Puri, who is contesting from the holy city of Amritsar, has a strong selling point for voters — they have a ready made minister in the government whose job is urban development and can do wonders for the city. A career diplomat, Puri has been discussing everything from Balakot and India’s nuclear doctrine to a garbage dump near the city, during his campaigns. He frequently refers to his vast experience as a diplomat to speak on local issues raised by residents and prides himself as the only candidate with a detailed manifesto for Amritsar. ET catches up with him amid his 17-odd daily engagements in his constituency.

On what has changed since 2014 when Jaitley lost the polls

People ask me the question on how we will make up for the 2 lakh votes. It is the other way around. In 2014, there was anger against us but it was anchored in anti-incumbency. The realisation is gaining ground that in 2014, a cardinal mistake was made and they could have easily elected a candidate and would become a stakeholder (at the Centre). People feel they need to invest in their own future that comes from having a representative who is already a minister in the Modi government.

On the nationalism drive

There is a big buzz around giving Amritsar the special status of a border district. I have spent a lot of time talking about surgical strikes and Balakot and have talked to people here about the nuclear strategic restrain doctrine…PM Modi did not buy the line that when you have two nuclear powered states, one of them can keeps sending in terrorists.

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On NDA’s election prospects

The opposition wants anyone but Modi because of their extortionist, blackmail politics. But this time, BJP will decidedly get over 282. My number has been 330 or so and with the alliance partners, it could be over 400. I expect all the seats we are contesting in Punjab to come our way.

On the outsider tag put on him

It has become a convenient talking point because they cannot find anything else against a BJP candidate. I am more of an Amritsari than most people. My grandfather was injured in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 and my father came here in 1947 by the last Frontier Mail. I have been here over 12 times in the last 18 months and have transformed a village I have adopted.

On Balakot air strikes

National security issues like the Balakot have found resonance and the issue of the 1984 riots on which Sam Pitroda gave an asinine statement is playing out badly for the Congress. The tipping point was the Captain’s admission that some Congress leaders were involved.

On peace with Pakistan

They are trying for peace as they are getting completely bankrupt. We want peace but we are very clear that Pakistan escalated the situation and de-escalation needs to come from their side.



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