Days after quitting Congress, Sunil Jakhar joins BJP: Details here
In another blow to the Congress, former Punjab Congress President Sunil Jakhar on Thursday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of party national president JP Nadda in Delhi. The disgruntled leader had quit the Congress on Saturday weeks after lashing out at former Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, saying he was "not an asset" as portrayed by the party leadership.
- Jakhar, a political stalwart in Punjab, was respected across party lines and his induction into the BJP is a big catch for the saffron party.
- Notably, this is the second big import from the Congress in Punjab after Captain Amarinder Singh allied with BJP earlier.
- Jakhar could possibly bring to the BJP fold more disgruntled Congress leaders and also hold a prominent position.
Welcoming Jakhar to the BJP, Nadda said the leader had enjoyed a special stature in Punjab and helped strengthen nationalist forces in the state. Jakhar would play a critical role for the BJP in Punjab, Nadda added. "BJP is emerging as the number one nationalist force in Punjab. Hence it is necessary for all leaders having nationalist ideology...to strengthen the party," Nadda said.
A three-term MLA and former Lok Sabha member from Gurdaspur, Jakhar expressed sorrow over breaking ties with Congress—which he called "family." "Three generations of my family served the Congress party over the last 50 years. Today, I have broken the 50-year-old tie over issues of nationalism, unity, and brotherhood in Punjab." "We had been with the Congress in good times and bad," Jakhar added.
Jakhar, a prominent non-Sikh face in Punjab, was removed from all party posts by the Congress disciplinary committee following allegations of anti-party activities by certain Punjab unit leaders against him. Calling out the element of casteism in Congress, he said, "The BJP has equality for all." He also lashed out at veteran Congress leader Ambika Soni for her "Hindu CM in Punjab" statement.
On April 11, Congress leaders KV Thomas and Jakhar were issued show-cause notices for breaking the party discipline. "I don't hold any (Congress) post; I have an ideology. I want to ask Sonia Gandhi that being Congress president, doesn't she know that I hold no position in the party? Then why a show-cause notice is being given to me?" he asked at the time.
In a Facebook Live session on Saturday, Jakhar lashed out at the Congress leadership and said he wasn't given a chance to explain. "It is extremely unfortunate that today I have...to leave the Congress...because they put me in the katghara (witness box)," he said. "You did not sever ties with me, you broke my heart...were you all ashamed to talk to me? he asked.
Former Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Saturday called Jakhar "an asset worth his weight in gold" and that Congress shouldn't lose him. "Any differences can be resolved on the table," he had said. Meanwhile, sources told NDTV that BJP could nominate Jakhar for the Rajya Sabha. He is also likely to help the party in the upcoming Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.
Jakhar's father, Balram Jakhar, was an Indira Gandhi loyalist and the Lok Sabha speaker from 1980 to 1989. He was a former governor of Madhya Pradesh and also served as agriculture minister in the Narasimha Rao government from 1991 to 1996. Meanwhile, Sunil was a three-time MLA from Abohar. In 2017, he lost the state polls but was elected as an MP from Gurdaspur.