One generation has made way for the other in the Jakhar family under Punjab’s grand old man Parkash Singh Badal. With the Congress on Monday announcing the name of Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar from the Ferozepur Lok Sabha seat, history seems to be repeating itself for the family, with the political graph of father and son taking the same course.
Sunil's father, veteran Congress leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar, became the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab assembly after his second consecutive assembly poll win in 1977 from Abohar.
At that time, the Leader of the House was chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. In 1980, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi fielded Balram Jakhar from Ferozepur and the constituency gave him a historic win by Balram Jakhar a margin of 1.86 lakh votes. He was made the speaker of the Lok Sabha, a position he held till 1989 after being re-elected. His political journey ended with a stint as Karnataka governor.
Thirty-four years later, his son Sunil Jakhar, a three-time MLA from Abohar, has been fielded by Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Ferozepur. Interestingly, this time too, Badal is at the helm in Punjab.
However, unlike his father, Sunil Jakhar faces the formidable task of reclaiming Ferozepur, a seat that has eluded the Congress for more than two decades since 1989. It went to the Bahujan Samaj Party twice and later the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
In 2009, too, Sunil Jakhar was keen to contest the parliamentary elections, but the party reposed its faith in former MP Jagmeet Brar, who suffered a defeat at the hands of SAD’s Sher Singh Ghubaya, mainly owing to the caste equations - Ferozepur has a high percentage of Rai Sikhs and Kamboj community members. Jakhar, a close confidant of former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, went on to become the Leader of the Opposition after winning in the 2012 Punjab assembly polls.
Soon after the party’s decision to field its top guns from Punjab, including Amarinder from Amritsar against BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley and former union minister Ambika Soni from Anandpur Sahib, Jakhar was also sounded of his possible candidature from Ferozepur.