In a homecoming of sorts, former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar, who remained at loggerheads with the Badals for four decades, Friday joined the Shiromani Akali Dal in the presence of party patron Parkash Singh Badal and president Sukhbir Badal.
Brar had in the past blamed Parkash Badal for the death of his father, who too was an Akali leader and had suffered a heart attack after being denied party ticket to contest the bypoll from a Lok Sabha seat vacated by the SAD patron.
As Sukhbir handed him a badge with ‘Proud To Be An Akali’ embossed on it, Brar referred to the SAD chief as “younger brother” and his Union minister wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal as sister.
“I needed a platform to work for Punjab and Punjabis. I do issue-based politics. I am happy that SAD has accepted me. This is the greatness of Parkash Singh Badal. In fact, I started my political career with Akali Dal. My father Gurmeet Singh Brar was a SAD MLA and had worked in close association with Parkash Badal,” Brar said.
Brar, who was expelled from the Congress where he had spent more than 30 years, had later joined the All India Trinamool Congress and was its state president before quitting the party last year. Since then he remained in political wilderness.
The former MP claimed that he has joined Akali Dal unconditionally. “I never asked and also they never made any commitment to me regarding contesting the Lok Sabha election from Bathinda or Ferozepur seats. I will do whatever duty I am assigned by the party,” he said.
He accepted that he had offered to join the Congress unconditionally. Earlier in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had shown to the media some WhatsApp messages that Brar had sent urging Congress to accept him in partyfold. “I am surprised at Congress’s reaction over my joining the SAD when I am no longer part of the Congress. Amarinder made my WhatsApp messages public. I had sent them in the larger interest of Punjab. I too know secrets of many senior leaders, but I will remain in ‘maryada’ and will focus on doing politics of issues rather than indulging in personal attacks.”
Brar said he worked worked for 40 years in Congress under Six party presidents – Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narsimha Rao, Sita Ram Kesari, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. “Just because I have switched to Akali Dalm doesn’t mean I will launch personal attacks on them. I worked as a soldier for Congress, I will do the same for Akali Dal”.
He was all praise for Senior Badal. “If I learned values like hard work, punctuality it is because of Badal saheb. In 1980, Indira Gandhi asked me to contest against Badal saheb, who was then Punjab CM, from Gidderbaha assembly seat. While I used to start my campaign at 9 am, Badal saheb would already be in field by 7 am. His dedication is a lesson and politicians need to learn seriousness of politics from him”.
Brar had contested 10 elections, of which eight were for Lok Sabha in which he was successful only twice – in 1991 and 1999 – from Faridkot.
He claimed that even as Congress MP, he had raised issues like 1984 riots and involvement of Cngress leaders in it.
Brar recalled how his father and Badal senior had won their first assembly elections in 1957 from Baghapurana and Malaut, respectively. In 1967, Badal had lost Gidderbaha by 57 votes “due to cheating by poll officers”, he said. Brar, however, didn’t talk about 1977, when his father had sought Lok Sabha ticket from Faridkot, which Badal gave to Balwant Ramoowalia.
Though Brar didn’t talk about his victory against Sukhbir, the former deputy CM said, “I do remember that Brar once defeated me when I was new to politics. I did not even know the names of villages and didn’t even know how to make a political speech. His political career inspires me a lot and we are happy to have him as a team member”.
The mutual admiration was once again on show when Brar recalled his father’s relations with Harsimrat’s father Rajmohinder Majithia and even praised her as an “effective parliamentarian”. Harsimrat, on her part, stated that Brar’s life offered her great lessons.
Though Brar claimed to have joined the SAD with his team, his close aide and former Muktsar district Congress president Gurdas Girdhar said,” It was his personal decision. I am a born Congressman and I will never leave the party”.