Chandigarh: In a numbing blow to the Congress in Punjab, its four former ministers, besides several other leaders joined BJP in presence of Home minister Amit Shah here Saturday afternoon.
While the four former ministers are Balbir Sidhu, Gurpreet Kangar, Shyam Sunder Arora and Raj Kumar Verka, the former senior Barnala legislator who joined the saffron party was Kewal Singh Dhillon.
It is pertinent to mention that while Verka was one of the tall Dalit leaders of Congress and also former vice chairperson of the national commission for scheduled castes, Sundar Sham Arora was working president of state Congress and Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar were tall Jat-Sikh leaders of the Punjab Congress.
With their inclusion, BJP eyes to increase its footprint in the state, especially in the Malwa region, the stronghold of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), as Kangar is a former MLA from Rampura Phul, district Bathinda, Singla, former MLA from Bathinda and Sidhu, former MLA from Mohali.
Likewise, while Arora is a former MLA from Hoshiarpur (Doaba region), Verka is a former MLA from Amritsar (west) which falls in Majha region. While Verka was a Dalit face of the Congress, Singla and Arora were Hindu faces of Congress in the Sikh majority state.
Aside from those named above, several others who joined BJP included Congress MLA Amrik Dhilon, former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Sarup Chand Singla and expelled SAD leader Mohinder Kaur Josh. Sitting Mohali mayor, Amarjit Singh Sidhu, who is brother of former minister Balbir Sidhu along with about 35 councillors also joined BJP.
Sunil Jakhar, former president of the Punjab Congress who had joined BJP last month and the BJP’s Sikh face, Manjinder Singh Sirsa along with BJP leader Arvind Khanna were also present on the occasion, besides several other senior saffron party leaders.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress leader Kuljit Nagra said that there were certain party leaders (who feared being implicated in some cases by the central agencies) were being forced to join the BJP.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring also flayed BJP for making these leaders join the party. He held that at a time when Punjab was having law-and-order problems, the BJP was busy poaching leaders from other parties.
He also took to Twitter to say: "Best of luck for Joining BJP. Grateful that the 'elite' who enjoyed all the privileges in the party have vacated the space for younger leadership from common background."