Sunil Jakhar, one of Congress’s senior-most Hindu leaders in Punjab joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today (19 May) in the presence of party president J P Nadda. He had resigned from the Congress when the party leadership had gathered in Udaipur to conduct a three-day Chintan Shivir to revive its flailing fortunes.
Jakhar was sidelined by Congress leadership. Following Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation from the post of Punjab’s chief minister, he was considered a frontrunner. However, his hopes were dashed when Congress leader Ambika Soni announced that the party should only go with a Sikh face.
He had alleged that Soni warned that if Jakhar is made the chief minister, then Punjab would be set on fire. During a public meeting in his Abohar in February 2022, Jakhar had claimed that 42 MLAs out of 79 supported him as the chief minister of Punjab after Captain Amarinder Singh stepped down from the post.
After the Punjab elections, wherein Congress, which projected Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM face, was decimated, Jakhar was removed from party posts for indulging in anti-party activities and was given a show-cause notice. He had called Channi a liability who caused the party’s downfall due to his greed.
BJP has been looking to make significant inroads in Punjab after its alliance with Akali Dal fell through. Punjab is a border state with a history of violence and a separatist movement rearing its head. From a national security point of view, political stability in the state is of paramount importance.
In his speech, after the election results in five states in March 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he could envision BJP as a force to reckon with in Punjab. He had hailed the BJP workers in the state and assured the people of Punjab that the party would continue to warn against the separatist forces in the state.
Sunil Jakhar’s entry into BJP is significant. He would be expected to play a critical role in expanding the party on the ground in Punjab before the general elections in 2024. For Congress, coming to terms with defeat in Punjab, the exit of leaders like Captain Amarinder Singh and Sunil Jakhar, point to its end game in the state.
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