4 Punjab Congress former ministers join BJP
Two Shiromani Akali Dal leaders, two Congress MLAs and the party’s sitting Mayor from Mohali also made the switch at the BJP’s headquarters in the presence on Union home minister Amit Shah
The Congress in Punjab received a jolt on Saturday when four former ministers of the party — Balbir Sidhu, Raj Kumar Verka, Gurpreet Kangar and Sundar Sham Arora — joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in presence of Union home minister Amit Shah.
Shah, who was on a day’s tour of Chandigarh to inaugurate the Khelo India sports event in Panchkula, inducted the former ministers along with two ex-chief parliamentary secretaries from Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — Sarup Chand Singla and Bibi Mohinder Kaur Josh.
Businessman and former Congress MLA from Barnala, Kewal Singh Dhillon, and Congress’s sitting mayor from Mohali, Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, also joined the saffron outfit. The mayor is brother of former health minister Balbir Sidhu. Former Congress MLA Kamaljeet S Dhillon , late Amrik Singh Dhillon’s son, also joined the BJP.
The former ministers who joined the BJP were considered close to Amarinder Singh when he was the Congress chief minister. Three of them, except Verka, were removed as ministers after Singh was unceremoniously removed as chief minister. He was replaced by Charanjit Singh Channi some four months before the assembly elections.
Verka, a four-time MLA from Amritsar West, was the face of the party in the media and had served as vice-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste during the United Progressive Alliance regime in New Delhi. Arora, a former industries minister and former Hoshiarpur lawmaker, was recently made vice-president of Punjab pradesh Congress committee.
Sidhu, a former health minister, is three times MLA from Mohali, Kangar, a former revenue minister, too, had won from the Rampura assembly constituency of Bathinda district seat thrice.
Only last month, former Punjab pradesh Congress committee chief Sunil Jakhar left for the BJP and is now learnt to have played a key role in bringing the former ministers in the saffron fold. Later in the day, Jakhar hosted Shah at dinner at his Panchkula residence along with the other Congress leaders.
The BJP has just two MLAs in the Punjab assembly. Its attempts to mark its presence in the state came a cropper in the 2022 assembly polls although the party had contested on 73 seats. It was BJP’s worst ever performance in the past five assembly polls, even as its vote share in the state rose slightly to 6.8%.
Meanwhile, Shah in his address to BJP workers said put all rumours about a possible tie-up with the SAD was unfounded. The BJP will contest the 2024 general elections on its own in Punjab, he said.
“Anyone wanting to join us will have to come in as a smaller partner and contest under the kamal (lotus symbol). We played the role of smaller partner earlier in the interest of Hindu-Sikh unit and now the BJP will play bigger role for the same communal harmony,” Shah said.
Taking a dig at the Aam Aadmi Party, he said that in just three months, the ruling party has unveiled its face of deceit and deception.