The going is getting increasingly tough for film star-turned-politician, Vinod Khanna, in Gurdaspur. With the Congress nominee, Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, putting up a stiff fight, Khanna's hat trick of victories in Lok Sabha elections looks now in doubt.
Bhinder, who lost the election to Khanna in 1999 with just 1,399 votes, has been engaged in aggressive campaigning. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has addressed a rally in the constituency in Bhinder's support.
Khanna has mainly leaned on his Bollywood colleagues for campaigning. Sanjay Dutt, Poonam Dhillon, Shatrughan Sinha and Sunil Shetty have all campaigned in the constituency.
Party chief Venkaiah Naidu and Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley have also addressed rallies.
But if the 1999 election was tough for Khanaa, 2004 is tougher. In 1999, all assembly seats in Gurdaspur were with the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiromani Akali Dal combine. This time eight of these assembly seats are with the Congress.
Bhinder is raising issues like employment and economic uplift, while Khanna is mainly talking about the development works he undertook in the constituency.
Bhinder had won this seat for five consecutive terms before Khanna interrupted her march in 1998. He won the seat again the next year.
Khanna has two main projects to his credit -- a bridge over river Beas and the Institute of Hotel Management in Gurdaspur town. These projects are his main poll planks. He also claims to have 'endeavoured' to revive a public sector woollen mill in Dhariwal.
Bhinder, wife of high-profile police officer P S Bhinder, claims she brought a chain of educational institutions to the constituency.
Notwithstanding the claims and counter-claims, residents of the two most backward blocks in the constituency --
Narot Mehra and Sujanpura -- are still deprived of the basic amenities like drinking water, roads, uninterrupted telephone service, availability of staff in schools and in dispensaries.
While Khanna is accused of remaining inaccessible after winning the election, Bhinder's campaign in crippled by groupism in the district Congress.
The voting in the constituency will take place on May 10. That's when people will decide who they want to represent them in Parliament -- a charismatic hero or woman of substance.