Punjab Assembly elections are due next year, but political parties – the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party - are already in poll mode with party-hopping emerging as flavour of the season. As switching parties is often seen as an indicator of which party has an edge, there has been a flurry of defections in recent weeks, blurring political identities and ideologies. The scramble for turncoats is only going to intensify in the coming months. HT looks at politicians – both first-time and habitual defectors – who have switched sides and why:
BALWANT SINGH RAMOOWALIA (73)
A rank opportunist, he switched loyalties from SAD to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in October 2015 to become a cabinet minister in the UP government. Ramoowalia started out as a ballad singer before sycophancy helped his political climb. He quit the SAD in 1989 for the United Front government only to rejoin it in 2011.
MANPREET SINGH BADAL (53)
Manpreet, nephew of CM Parkash Singh Badal, merged his People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with Congress last month. He was finance minister in the SAD government, but quit in 2010 to form the PPP. When the party failed to win any assembly seat, he started hobnobbing with the Congress. He unsuccessfully contested the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat as its candidate in 2014.
SUKHPAL SINGH KHAIRA (51)
He switched loyalties from the Congress to the AAP in December last year. Referred to as a motormouth in political circles, the former MLA from Bholath, who never minced words during his Congress days, has been somewhat quiet in recent weeks. Khaira contested four assembly elections, but won only once in 2007.
CD SINGH KAMBOJ (67)
A retired lieutenant colonel, Kamboj is another Congress leader to defect to the AAP, making it his third party in two decades. He was state chief of Bahujan Samaj Party and contested the 1998 parliamentary poll from Hoshiarpur before joining the Congress. He was chairman of Punjab Health Systems Corporation in the Amarinder Singh government.
HARINDER PAL SINGH HARRY MANN (59)
He resigned from the post of Punjab Information Commissioner to join the Congress recently, returning to the party where he spent first 25 years of his political career. Harry Mann had contested from Samana in 2002 polls as a Congress rebel before joining the SAD in 2007. On finding his chances of a SAD ticket weak, he put the reverse gear.
DEEPINDER SINGH DHILLON (54)
Considered close to former external affairs minister Preneet Kaur, he entered politics by joining the Congress in 1997. Having lost two elections in 2009 and 2012, he joined the SAD and unsuccessfully contested the Patiala Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Now, he is back in the Congress.
JAGTAR SINGH RAJLA (51)
He dumped the Congress for the AAP in December 2015. Rajla was in the SAD originally. A supporter of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, he became MLA from Samana in 1997, but was ignored after his benefactor’s demise. Joining the Congress in 2009 didn’t help, as Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh was fielded from the seat.
BALKAR SIDHU (42)
A Punjabi folk singer, he has joined the Congress. Considered close to AAP MPs Prof Sadhu Singh and Bhagwant Mann, Sidhu was given the AAP ticket for Talwandi Sabo bypoll in August 2014, but got dumped after the party leadership got a complaint against him. He contested as an Independent candidate and was expelled.