Jolt to Congress in Punjab: Karamjit Kaur, wife of late MP Santokh Chaudhary, joins BJP - Hindustan Times

Jolt to Congress in Punjab: Karamjit Kaur, wife of late MP Santokh Chaudhary, joins BJP

Apr 20, 2024 02:16 PM IST

Tajinder Singh Bittu, the AICC secretary in-charge of Himachal Pradesh and aide of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, also inducted into BJP

In a blow to the Congress in Punjab’s Jalandhar parliamentary constituency, Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the wife of two-time MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary, and Tajinder Singh Bittu, the AICC secretary in-charge of Himachal Pradesh, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi on Saturday.

Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the wife of two-time Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary, being welcomed into the BJP in New Delhi on Saturday. (HT Photo)
Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the wife of two-time Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary, being welcomed into the BJP in New Delhi on Saturday. (HT Photo)

The Chaudhary family, which has been associated with the Congress for 95 years, was miffed with the party leadership after former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi was named the candidate from Dalit-dominated Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency on April 14. Karamjit’s son Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, the MLA from Phillaur, was among the contenders for the ticket from Jalandhar.

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Karamjit, a retired professor, was inducted into the saffron party along with Tajinder Singh Bittu, who is a confidant of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in the presence of BJP national general secretary Vinod Tawde.

A former chairman of Jalandhar Improvement Trust, Bittu has also been in-charge of the Congress in the Rai Bareli constituency, represented by Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha since 2004.

“Our family was shocked at being sidelined despite our decades-long association with the Congress. From my father-in-law, Master Gurbanta Singh to my husband Santokh Singh and now my son Vikramjit, our family has worked wholeheartedly for the party,” said Karamjit, who unsuccessfully contested the Jalandhar Lok Sabha byelection after the death of her husband during Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in January last year.

“Loyalty is in the blood of my family and the people of Punjab acknowledged it, but we can’t stand by the Congress when it comes to our self-respect and injustice with our family,” she said.

“My husband Santokh Chaudhary spared no effort to ensure the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and even sacrificed his life, but the Congress betrayed him and his family. With a very heavy heart, I would ask the Congress leadership to introspect. A family associated with the party for over 95 years is leaving it due to poor decision making and working of the present leadership,” she said.

Her son Vikramjit Chaudhary, who had also resigned from the post of Congress chief whip in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha due to Channi’s candidature, refused to comment on the development.

Channi terms move ‘political suicide’

When contacted, former CM Channi said Karamjit’s joining the BJP and Vikramjit’s revolt would have no impact on the Congress. “I have a lot of respect for Master Gurbanta Singh, Chaudhary Jagjit and Santokh as they have been associated with the Congress for decades, but Karamjit and her son Vikramjit have not only dented but also ended their family’s rich political legacy,” he said.

Channi said the Congress went all out to support the Chaudhary family in its difficult time after Santokh Chaudhary’s death during the yatra last year.

“Chaudhary’s ideology was alive even after Santokh’s death but today both Karamjit and Vikramjit ended his ideology and loyalty towards the Congress and have committed political suicide,” Channi said.

During last year’s Jalandhar Lok Sabha byelections, Karamjit lost to Aam Aadmi Party’s Sushil Kumar Rinku, who is now the BJP candidate from Jalandhar, with a margin of 58,691 votes as she secured 2,43,588 votes.

Family’s rich political legacy

The Chaudharys have a rich political legacy. The family has been active in electoral politics since 1936. In every Congress government formed in the state, at least one member from the family had always had the opportunity to serve as a minister, holding important portfolios.

Vikramjit’s grandfather Master Gurbanta Singh was a seven-time MLA and last won an election in 1972 when he was elected unopposed. He had close association with Dera Sachkhand Ballan, considered to have a sway over the parliamentary constituency.

Gurbanta’s elder son, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, remained a five-time MLA, while his younger son, Santokh Singh, remained MLA thrice and became MP twice in 2014 and 2019. Both contested from Kartarpur and Phillaur constituencies, and later Jagjit’s son Surinder Chaudhary became MLA from Kartarpur in 2017. Vikramjit Singh became MLA from Phillaur in the 2022 assembly polls and became the Chaudhary family’s 16th representative in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which also happens to be the state’s 16th assembly.

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    Navrajdeep Singh is a senior staff correspondent. He covers agriculture, crime, local bodies, health and education in the Patiala district of Punjab.

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