In a bid to revamp and re-energise its Punjab unit, the BJP Friday appointed former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and former state Congress president Sunil Jakhar as members of its national executive. The party also inducted former Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill as its national spokesperson.
Amarinder and Jakhar had quit the Congress ahead of this year’s Punjab elections in which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) scored a landslide victory, while Shergill resigned from the Congress in August.
An official release also mentioned induction of party’s former Uttar Pradesh president Swatantra Dev Singh into the national executive. Madan Kaushik, Vishnu Deo Sai, BJP’s former presidents of Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, respectively; Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Manoranjan Kalia and Amanjot Kaur Ramoowalia, all three from Punjab, have been made special invitees to the national executive, it added.
Amanjot Kaur, a former Akali leader, is the daughter of former union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia.
Amarinder quit the Congress after he was unceremoniously removed as Punjab CM last year and floated his own outfit, Punjab Lok Congress, and contested February 20 Assembly elections in alliance with the BJP. In September this year, the two-term CM merged PLC with the BJP and joined the saffron party.
Jakhar, a former minister, parted ways with the Congress in May this year and Sodhi in December last year.
Shergill, a Supreme Court lawyer, had quit the Congress, alleging that sycophancy is eating into the organisation like termites. Shergill had joined the Congress in 2014 after a “talent hunt” by the party to identify young faces. His appointment as its spokesperson puts an official seal on his induction into the BJP as there had been no formal announcement so far since he quit the Congress. In a tweet, Shergill thanked the BJP leadership for his appointment.
“From today onwards I will move from Congress’s negative politics of criticism to politics of positive development, politics of post to politics of serving the nation, from darkness to light, from ‘chamchagiri’ to ‘kartavya’,” Shergill said.
With two of the three new national executive members hailing from Punjab and three of the five special invitees as well, the BJP’s decision underscores its effort to boost its presence in the border state where the political scene has been in a churn with the AAP coming to power while traditionally strong parties such as the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress in decline.
Party leaders too said the appointments are part of BJP’s push to revamp the party in Punjab.
BJP national executive member Harjit Singh Grewal said the “inclusion of tall political leaders” in the national executive would “attract more leaders from the state into party fold and dispel impression that BJP is untouchable in Punjab”.
The party could win only two seats in the Assembly elections held earlier this year. It had contested on 73 seats and won Pathankot and Mukerian, even as the vote share increased from 5.39 per cent to 6.6 per cent. Earlier in 2017 polls, the BJP as a partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal had contested on 23 seats. The SAD, one of BJP’s oldest political allies, walked out of the NDA in 2020 over the contentious farm Bills that have been withdrawn since.
Of the 73 seats that the BJP contested in Punjab polls this year, the party had forfeited its security deposits in 54, while its alliance partner Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) contested on 28 seats and only Capt Amarinder could save his security deposit.