Jalandhar bypoll will test BJP’s Sikh outreach

In the changing political scenario post senior Badal’s death, the bypoll will test the BJP’s Sikh outreach strategy.
Image used for representational purposes (Photo | PTI)
Image used for representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

CHANDIGARH: In a bid to “stand on its own two feet” in Punjab, the BJP has been inducting a large number of Sikh leaders from other parties and has completely ruled out the possibility of a revival of its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Instead, the BJP has been underlining its lingering connection with former CM Parkash Singh Badal, especially his warm ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In doing so, it has received the support of former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur and the Bains brothers for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha by-election.

In the changing political scenario post senior Badal’s death, the bypoll will test the BJP’s Sikh outreach strategy. Less than a week after the party drew the support of the influential Bains brothers, Bibi Jagir Kaur extended her support to the BJP on Friday.

SAD had expelled Kaur last year for extending support to the saffron party. At a rally yesterday, she addressed a gathering in Jalandhar in favour of BJP candidate Inder Iqbal Atwal who was previously with Akali Dal. Former SAD leader Sarabjit Singh Makkar, who is now in BJP, was present besides former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani.

Besides, Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) has offered support to the BJP. Simarjeet Singh Bains, the chief of the LIP and a two-time former MLA from the Atam Nagar constituency in Ludhiana, has announced his party will support BJP’s Atwal. Already Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur and Gajendra Shekhawat besides other leaders have said there was no possibility of a SAD-BJP alliance.

The BJP has been inducting prominent leaders since its ties with SAD snapped. Some of these are former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, former cabinet ministers Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Gurpreet Kangar, Manpreet Badal, former MLA Fateh Jung Bajwa, Kewal Singh Dhillon all from Congress, and former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra’s grandson Kanwarveer Singh.

“The BJP is appeasing Sikhs and has given prominence to these new inductees. There is some heartburn among traditional party leaders,’’ said a senior leader. The saffron party has hinted that it subscribes to Sr Badal’s brand of politics. The SAD broke ties with BJP over the farm laws which were later revoked.

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