Vinod Khanna's LS constituency remembers its 'Sardar of bridges'
Actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna, a four-time MP from Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab, was popularly known as "Sardar of bridges" for connecting remote villages in his constituency. 70-year-old Khanna died of bladder cancer at a hospital in Mumbai on Thursday. As the news of his death spread, his constituency went into a state of mourning.
"The news has come as a great shock to us. We cannot believe that he is no more. He was ever so helpful and did so much for his constituency," 78-year-old Jarnail Singh, a Pathankot-based resident in Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency, said.
Suave and easy to mingle with voters, Khanna was always a crowd puller in his constituency. He even bought a house in the region so that he could have easy access to the people of his constituency. He had demanded a special package for border districts to create employment opportunities and promote adventure and spiritual tourism in his border constituency during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
After joining the BJP in 1997, Khanna was fielded from Gurdaspur parliamentary seat in 1998. He met the expectations of the saffron party when he unseated veteran Congress leader and five-time MP Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder with a handsome margin. He again trounced Bhinder in 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
However, he had to taste defeat in 2009 Lok Sabha elections when he was defeated by Congress candidate Partap Singh Bajwa. Khanna took his 'sweet revenge' in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he thrashed Bajwa with a margin of over 1.30 lakh votes.
The veteran actor is survived by his wife, Kavita Khanna, and four children - Rahul, Akshaye, Sakshi, and Shraddha. He had always said that he considered his constituency as his fifth child.
"Gurdaspur constituency is my child. In fact, it is my fifth child which needs my attention the most," he had said during poll campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Khanna, who had donned the hats of Union Minister for Culture and Tourism, and Minister of State for External Affairs in 2002 and 2003 respectively, was popularly known as "Sardar of bridges" for building several bridges on Ravi and Beas rivers. "He got several bridges built on Ravi, Beas and Ujh rivers. These bridges helped in connecting several villages located at far off places with the city and as a result of which Gurdaspur got developed," said his close aide Samarinder Sharma.
"He also got a Railway shunting yard removed from Pathankot which helped in resolving the traffic problem in the area. The leader also helped in setting up the domestic airport at Pathankot," he said.
Sharma, who had been associated with the actor for 20 years, said Khanna even bore expenses pertaining to heart and cancer surgeries of several needy patients of his constituency.
"Khanna ji last visited the constituency in December. He could not visit further due to his failing helath," he said.
The veteran actor had even come under attack from opposition parties for not being present in his constituency at the time of the terror attack at Pathankot air force base station last year.