In a major setback to the Punjab Congress, two-time MLA from Moga Joginder Pal Jain on Wednesday quit the party and joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
After welcoming Jain into the SAD, party president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also announced Jain as the party's candidate for the Moga byelection.
The Moga assembly seat fell vacant after Jain submitted his resignation to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker earlier on Wednesday before formally joining the SAD in the presence of Sukhbir, Punjab education minister Sikander Singh Maluka and Dera Bassi MLA NK Sharma. His resignation was accepted by speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. Jain had resigned as per the anti-defection law, which guards against any legislator crossing over to another political party.
Sukhbir said Jain's joining the SAD was a shot in the arm for the party. "It is a historic day for the Akali party. Probably, this is a rare example in politics in recent times where a sitting MLA has resigned from the membership of the House and decided to join another political outfit. Jain's entry into the SAD would surely strengthen the party in the Malwa region," added Sukhbir, who also presented a siropa to the former Congress MLA.
Sukhbir claimed that Jain's induction into the SAD was completely unconditional. "He came to me and expressed his willingness to join the SAD," the deputy CM claimed.
'Gill is a family member'
Asked if Jain would be a political threat to former Punjab DGP Paramdeep Singh Gill, whom the SAD had fielded from Moga in the 2012 assembly polls against the former, Sukhbir said Gill was a "family member". Gill had lost to Jain in the January 30 poll by more than 4,600 votes.
"He (Gill) did a phenomenal job in the last election. His family commands huge respect in Moga. Gill is a member of my inner team. Together, we have to undertake many confidential missions together which I cannot disclose in public," said Sukhbir.
'Disillusioned with Cong'
Former Congress MLA Joginder Pal Jain on Wednesday said that he had quit the party as he had been fighting a lone battle. "I was fighting my own cases and the party did not come to my support. It was Congressmen who stood against me and were responsible for filing false cases against me. The Congress leadership took no action against these party men," said Jain while joining the SAD.
Jain, however, denied that there was any criminal or other case pending against him. "There is no case pending against me. Whatever is appearing in a section of the media is completely false," he added.
Jain said he was completely disillusioned with the Congress. "There is a complete rot in the present system of functioning of the Congress. The party style of working and its policies are no more in the interest of the common man. People of Punjab have not benefited from the Congress in the recent past," said Jain.
Sukhbir to Jain's defence
During the press conference, Sukhbir repeatedly sprang to Jain's defence when the media asked the latter whether he had quit the Congress to have his cases "settled" by the SAD-BJP government or was under pressure from the Akalis.
"Don't try to read too much between the lines. Just see the real sentiment behind Jain taking such a major step. You all know the working of the Congress and Jain was simply fed up with them," said Sukhbir.