Cong Struggling with Defections Ahead of June 1 polls in Punjab

  • | Monday | 22nd April, 2024

As the state is bracing for the June 1 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party is finding itself ensnared in a web of internal dissent and a flurry of high-profile defections in Punjab. With the battleground set and political alliances crystallizing, the Congress is grappling with a crisis of unity that threatens to undermine its electoral prospects.   The political landscape of Punjab is witnessing a seismic shift as families, deeply entrenched in the Congress fold for decades, are now bidding adieu to the grand old party, and that too in the run up to Lok Sabha elections. The departure of traditional Congress families — including Patiala royal family, the Jakhars, the Chaudharys, and the kin of the slain chief minister Beant Singh — marked a watershed moment in the states political history.   These families, whose names were synonymous with Congress allegiance, are now charting a new course, aligning with rival political outfits like the BJP. The family of Capt Amarinder Singh, his wife and former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, along with their son Jai Inder Kaur and daughter Raninder Singh — known for their three-generation association with the Congress — have joined the BJP. Sunil Jakhar, who is the son of stalwart Congress leader Balram Jakhar, is currently the state BJP chief. His nephew, Sandeep Jakhar, is the third generation Congress leader and currently MLA from family bastion Abohar.   The Chaudhary familys legacy in Dalit politics of Doaba spans three generations, showcasing their enduring influence in the states political landscape. Since 1936, the family has been a formidable presence in every Punjab assembly election. Rooted in a tradition of public service, the late Master Gurbanta Singh, a seven-time Congress MLA and former Punjab agriculture minister, laid the foundation for the familys political journey. His son, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, followed in his footsteps, serving as a former Local Government Minister. Continuing this legacy, his brother Santokh Singh Chaudhary emerged victorious thrice in electoral battles, upholding the familys political heritage. Now his wife Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary has shifted allegiance to the BJP, with their son Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary being Congress MLA from Phillaur.   Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, also walked over to BJP ditching Congress. His family including his cousin Gurkirat Singh Kotli, and uncle Tej Parkash Singh are still with Congress.   This exodus not only underscored the growing discontent within the Congress but also signaled a broader realignment of political alliances in the region. As Punjab braces for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the absence of these iconic Congress families is expected to leave a void for the Congress that could redefine the states political landscape for years to come.   Punjab Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring had recently claimed that the party had achieved a significant milestone by establishing a robust organizational structure, extending its reach down to the grassroots level. However, his assertion now stood in stark contrast to the visible disarray within the party as the process of ticket allocation unfolds.   The Congress has, as of now, announced the names of six candidates for Punjab, out of total 13, with remaining seven to be declared anytime now.   Soon after, the fissures within the Congress ranks became increasingly apparent as prominent leaders opt to defect to other political outfits, citing growing disillusionment and discontent. The exodus of leaders not only reflected individual grievances but also underscored broader systemic challenges that the party faced in maintaining cohesion and unity.   In the politically-pivotal state of Punjab, the departure of stalwarts such as two-time Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and former MP Sunil Jakhar had dealt a severe blow to the Congress. These defections, occurring amidst the fervour of the Lok Sabha elections, have further eroded the partys stronghold in the region. Moreover, the decision of families with deep-rooted ties to Congress — such as the late Beant Singhs family and the Chaudhary family of former Minister Master Gurbanta Singh — to align with the BJP added to the partys woes.   The ongoing exodus of leaders during the critical phase of ticket distribution has exacerbated the existing challenges confronting the Congress. While defections are not uncommon across political spectrums, the Congress, it seemed, particularly susceptible to internal discord, particularly in Punjabs political landscape.   The inability to address mounting discontent has rendered the Congress vulnerable, with its leadership struggling to contain the fallout from successive defections. Unlike leaders of yore, such as Capt Amarinder or Sunil Jakhar, the incumbent state party chief Warring lacked the same gravitas, charisma, and trust among senior party members. While Warring brought youthful energy to the table, his leadership style has yet to strike a delicate balance between appeasing both senior and younger leaders.   This predicament extended beyond him. The leader of Congress Legislative Party (CLP) and the Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha Pratap Singh Bajwa and the state party affairs in-charge Devendra Yadav are also finding themselves navigating similar challenges in fostering party unity amidst a wave of defections.   Historically, the Congress has relied on heavyweight state unit in-charges like Asha Kumari, Harish Rawat, or Harish Chaudhary to steer the ship, their towering stature providing a semblance of stability amid turbulent waters. Yet, the appointment of Devendra Yadav, whose political clout pales in comparison, has left the Congress grappling with the fallout of a fractured leadership.   In the face of mounting dissent and the steady exodus of prominent leaders, the Congress is currently standing at a crossroads. The partys ability to reconcile internal differences, restore unity, and project a cohesive front will ultimately determine its electoral fortunes in the impending Lok Sabha elections. However, with each departure of a prominent figure, the task becomes increasingly arduous, casting a shadow over the partys prospects and raising questions about its ability to weather the storm.   Cong to Declare Names of Remaining Candidates Anytime Top Congress leaders from Punjab on Sunday met the party high command in New Delhi to discuss the partys Lok Sabha poll candidates for Punjabs remaining seven seats. Sources said that the next list of candidates will be announced very soon. The meeting of Congress Election Committee was chaired by party president Mallikarjun Kharge and attended by former party chief Sonia Gandhi, senior leaders Salman Khurshid and Ambika Soni, among others. Sources said that several names were discussed, and the list will be announced anytime now.   Kaypee Likely To Join SAD Former Congress MP from Jalandhar and ex-PPCC chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee has decided to join the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), sparking speculation about his potential candidacy with the party. Kaypees meeting with SAD president Sukhbir Badal on Friday hinted at his inclination towards joining the party and possibly contesting in the upcoming elections. Notably, Kaypees decision could set the stage for a family rivalry as he is likely to take on his relative, Congress candidate and former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. Notably, Kaypees daughter is married to Channis nephew. Reports suggest that he had also met the central Congress leadership last week, indicating a desire for a ticket from Hoshiarpur.   Traditional Cong Families Leaving Hand Patiala Royal family Maharani Mohinder Kaur à her son Capt Amarinder à his wife Preneet Kaur àtheir daughter Jai Inder Kaur and son Raninder Singh Jakhars Balram Jakhar à Son Sajjan Kumar Jakhar à His Brother Sunil Kumar Jakhar à His Nephew Sandeep Jakhar Beant Singh Beant Singh à son Tej Parkash and daughter Gurkanawal Kaur à grandchildren Ravneet Bittu, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Guriqbal Kaur Chaudharys Master Gurbanta Singh à son Chaudhary Jagjit Singh à his brother Santokh Singh Chaudhary à his wife Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary à their son Vikramjit Singh Chaurdhary

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