Three-time Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar, 57, would be the leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He was picked as the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader by the party high command in New Delhi on Sunday. Party president Sonia Gandhi took the decision after the state CLP, which met here on Saturday night, left it to the high command.
Jakhar has succeeded senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as the CLP leader in the 117-member House. The party won 46 seats in the recent assembly elections.
The Abohar MLA has been playing an active role in the assembly, raising issues such as the kerosene scam, wheat seed subsidy scam in Bathinda, the Akali-BJP government’s ‘poor’ performance in implementing central flagship schemes, and the state’s bad fiscal health. He defeated Shiv Lal Doda, a BJP rebel, by 9,788 votes in the January 30 polls.
Jakhar also got elected from Abohar in 2002 and 2007, defeating the BJP’s Dr Ram Kumar by more than 15,000 votes in both elections.
When contacted, Sunil Jakhar said the party high command had informed him about the decision to make him the CLP leader. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has felicitated Jakhar on his appointment.
Former Punjab deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh has welcomed Sunil Jakhar’s elevation as leader of the Opposition. “Jakhar is a welcome choice of Sonia Gandhi. This decision is indicative of the generational transformation in the party leadership in Punjab,” former Congress leader Bir Devinder said in a statement here.
“Jakhar is an educated and articulate parliamentarian, with rich experience of parliamentary practice and procedures and fairly capable to deliver. Above all, he is humble and dignified.
I’m sure that with his elevation, the level of debates and discussion would get diversely upgraded; even the floor coordination would improve radically,” said Bir Devinder, who lost the recent assembly elections from Mohali as the People’s Party of Punjab candidate.