Congressization of BJP is complete in Punjab; 6 out of 12 have Congress links

  • | Saturday | 11th May, 2024

In a political landscape where the lotus blooms, the roots of the Congress are entwined deeply within. Punjab, often hailed as the heartland of political fervour, is witnessing a captivating saga where the hands that once upheld the Congress emblem are now raising the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).   Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modis fervent call for a Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India), the BJPs trajectory in Punjab tells a different story.   Consider this: The saffron brigade in Punjab is now led by a former Congress stalwart—the one who had led the Congress in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Out of the 12 candidates fielded by the BJP, four boast direct affiliations with the Congress, while two others carry a legacy from the grand old party. Adding to this mix, the partys core group includes several former Congress leaders, with an ex-Congress leader heading the States women wing. But thats not all Among the candidates fielded by the saffron party, only three bear the hallmark of traditional BJP membership.   Many BJP leaders in Punjab, though in murmurs, have expressed their dissatisfaction with what they see as the Congressization of their party. They believed that their years of hard work to build the party in Punjab have been overlooked, with several senior BJP leaders notably absent from the campaign trail.   The influx of Congress leaders to the BJP — which commenced prior to the 2022 state assembly elections and persists to the present day — prompted scrutiny of the leadership and organizational framework within the state party unit. These occurrences highlight specific shortcomings within the partys previous leadership and organizational structure, which over the years have struggled to adequately convey the partys policies to the public or establish a robust presence in the state.   The phenomenon prompted reflection on why the BJP, despite being the worlds largest political party, has struggled to establish a strong political base in Punjab for the past 72 years.   One possible explanation is that the BJP had never contested elections independently in Punjab before. Historically, the BJP had been part of the ruling coalition in Punjab, but always as a junior partner to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). However, the longstanding alliance between these two parties fractured when the BJP introduced contentious farm laws, which have now been repealed.   The need to import leaders from the Congress, who previously questioned the BJPs policies, also raised eyebrows among grassroots workers, who feel their loyalty and dedication have been disregarded. Workers are dismayed that those, who have all along been criticizing the BJP, are now being rewarded with the positions, and party tickets. The trend has raised concerns about the BJPs ability to attract voters in Punjab and called into question the partys grassroots organizational strength.   Arun Narang, the former MLA of Abohar, made a significant decision in July 2023 when he parted ways with the BJP. His departure was fueled by a poignant reason — the elevation of his former opponent, Sunil Jakhar, whom he had defeated in the 2017 assembly polls, to the position of Punjab BJP president.   Expressing his dismay, Narang had, at that time, remarked, Its disheartening to witness the individual I defeated in 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections ascend to such a prominent role within the party.   Making it clear that he harboured no personal animosity towards Jakhars affiliation with the BJP, Narang found it unsettling that the party seemed to disregard its longstanding members in favour of newcomers. Reflecting on his four-decade-long tenure with the party, Narang had stated, After dedicating a significant portion of my life to this party, witnessing such disregard for loyalty made me reassess my allegiance. It became clear that this wasnt the recognition or respect I had hoped for.   A senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said: BJP here is witnessing a remarkable surge in membership from diverse political backgrounds, be it Congress or Akali Dal. We embrace this inclusivity, but there are valid concerns about prioritizing individuals previously rejected by voters. Some leaders in the party question if this influx reflects a Congressisation of the BJP, overshadowing the contributions of our longstanding workers. The recent trend of providing high-level security to former Congress members joining our ranks has raised eyebrows. Nevertheless, we remain committed to welcoming all who wish to join our party.   Congressification of BJP   The lines between the Congress hand and the BJPs lotus seem to blur as the BJP undergoes what some perceive as a Congressification in the State.   At the forefront of this remarkable transformation stands a former Congress stalwart — Sunil Jakhar, now leading the BJPs charge in Punjab. A former Gurdaspur MP and former Abohar MLA, Jakhar had led the Congress party during the 2019 general elections when the grand old party won eight out of the total 13 seats in the State.   Of the 12 candidates fielded by the BJP, four bear direct connections to the Congress, serving as a potent reminder of the intricate ties that bind the two parties. Former Union Minister and four-time MP Preneet Kaur is seeking reelection on BJP ticket from Patiala, while two-time MP Ravneet Singh Bittu has been re-nominated by the BJP from Ludhiana. Congress former Minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi also succeeded in bagging the BJP ticket from Firozpur — something which he could not achieve while being in Congress. And for the crucial seat of Sangrur — the Chief Minister Bhagwant Manns bastion, BJP has laid its bet on Congress former MLA Arvind Khanna.   Furthermore, two other candidates — Sushil Kumar Rinku from Jalandhar, and Hans Raj Hans from Faridkot — also boast a history of association with the grand old party, lending credence to the notion of a Congress-yukt BJP taking shape in the State.   Starting his political journey with the Congress NSUI wing, Rinku won his first election from Jalandhar west assembly segment in 2017. However, he left the Congress and joined the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to win the Jalandhar bypolls in 2023. In a surprising over, Rinku shifted loyalties to BJP in March this year, days after the AAP declared him as its candidate from Jalandhar.   Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans, who is currently the BJP MP from Delhi West, was a member of Congress party from 2014 to 2016. He had started his political journey with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in 2009.   Delving deeper into the BJPs inner circle unveiled a tapestry woven with threads of Congress heritage. The partys core group features several former Congress leaders — right from former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Rana Sodhi, Kewal Singh Dhillon, Arvind Khanna, Fatehjang Singh Bajwa, Harjot Kamal, Daaman Thind Bajwa, among others — who have seamlessly transitioned into their new political home, bringing with them a wealth of experience and expertise.   But the crossover doesnt end there. Leading the charge for women empowerment within the BJP is another former Congress leader — Jai Inder Kaur, the daughter of Capt Amrinder and Preneet Kaur — who is heading the partys state womens wing.   BOX: CONG LEADERS IN BJP Punjab BJP president Sunil Jakhar BJP Candidates Preneet Kaur Ravneet Singh Bittu Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi Arvind Khanna. Sushil Kumar Rinku Hans Raj Hans Core Committee members Capt Amarinder Singh Manpreet Singh Badal Rana Sodhi Kewal Singh Dhillon Arvind Khanna Fatehjang Singh Bajwa Harjot Kamal Daaman Thind Bajwa, Punjab BJP Mahila Morcha president Jai Inder Kaur Other Congress leaders Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary

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