Updated: May 20, 2022 12:22:12 pm
“Good luck and goodbye.” The parting shot to the Congress, delivered as a Facebook Live video while the party held its chintan shivir in Jaipur, was quintessentially Sunil Jakhar – shooting from the hip, as he has so often in the recent past as the Congress in Punjab swung from one crisis to another.
On Thursday, six days after he quit the Congress, in the process using a mix of verse and some straight talk to lash out at the top leadership, Jakhar joined the BJP, a party he has spent his political career attacking.
Though Jakhar, a three-time-MLA and one-time MP, has never been seen as a mass leader, many see his entry into the BJP as a win-win for both sides.
In Jakhar, the BJP has got a formidable Hindu face in the state while for the three-time-MLA and one-time MP, the BJP offers a platform that can accommodate his experience.
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Jakhar’s clean image – he does not carry any corruption taint or baggage – is another plus for the BJP. Son of the late Balram Jakhar, the longest serving Speaker of Lok Sabha and a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, Jakhar is a Jat Hindu leader but makes it a point to underline the secular character of the state and its people.
In the midst of the leadership crisis in the Congress government, when Amarinder Singh was removed as Punjab CM, Jakhar was among the frontrunners for the post until senior Congress leader Ambika Soni is said to have insisted on a Sikh as CM. A hurt Jakhar had then said, “The making up of this Hindu vs Sikh issue is an insult to Punjab, which is so secular in character. We have faced so much in the state. It has come back to normal with so much effort.”
On Thursday, too, as he joined the BJP, he made it a point to say that Punjab is a template for communal harmony and brotherhood.
Sources close to him say Jakhar, after parting ways with the Congress, had two options – AAP or the BJP. Going with the AAP, a party which swept Punjab, winning 92 of the 117 Assembly seats, would have given Jakhar very little space, they say. On the other hand, he would find greater flexibility in the BJP, which, despite its humiliating poll rout in Punjab (the party only won two seats), is going all out to maximise its reach in the border state, the sources say, pointing to the back-to-back meetings that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held with Sikh groups and religious leaders.
The party is also going all out to pull in leaders from the Congress and Akali Dal. Former Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a potent Sikh voice, and Congress leaders Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa and Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi are among those who have gone on to join the BJP.
On Thursday, Punjab Lok Congress chief and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, whose Punjab Lok Congress had allied with the BJP, congratulated Jakhar, calling him the “right man in the right party”.
“Honest and upright leaders like Sunil cannot breathe in the Congress anymore. I was the CM and Sunil was the PCC president and everything was going well and we were set to repeat the government just less than a year ago when one wrong decision by the leadership proved suicidal,” Amarinder added.
While quitting the Congress on May 14, Jakhar had underlined that Amarinder Singh was well placed as Punjab CM, but Rawat was sent to “destabilise” him.
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