Dinesh K Sharma, Editor

In the presence of Amit Shah, prominent Punjab Congress leaders join BJP.

In the presence of Amit Shah, prominent Punjab Congress leaders join BJP.

Chandigarh: In a major setback to the Congress party, former ministers, Raj Kumar Verka, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Sunder Sham Arora, and Gurpreet Singh Kangar, joined the BJP on Saturday.

Senior Congress leader Kewal Dhillon from Barnala, and Sarup Chand Singla and Mohinder Kaur Josh, both former SAD MLAs, have also joined the BJP.

In the presence of Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Som Parkash, state unit chairman Ashwani Sharma, and senior BJP leaders Dushyant Gautam, Tarun Chugh, Sunil Jakhar, and Manjinder Singh Sirsa, they joined the party.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was in Chandigarh today for a meeting with party leaders and the launch of the Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula, Haryana. Following the Khelo India Youth Games, Shah visited party leader Sunil Jakhar’s home in Panchkula, where he was joined by Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. At Jakhar’s apartment, four Congress leaders who had defected to the BJP were also there.

In the previous Congress government, Balbir Sidhu, a three-time MLA from Mohali, was the health minister, while Gurpreet Kangar, a three-time MLA from Rampura Phul, was the revenue minister. Verka, a famous Dalit leader from the Majha region, is a three-time legislator who served in the previous government as the minister for social justice, empowerment, and minorities. Former Hoshiarpur MLA Sunder Sham Arora served as the previous Congress government’s industry and commerce minister. Balbir Sidhu’s brother, Mohali Corporation Mayor Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has also joined the BJP.

After the Congress replaced Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi as chief minister last year, Balbir Sidhu, Sunder Sham Arora, and Gurpreet Kangar were ousted from their ministries. The BJP’s admission of four top Punjab Congress figures is considered as a significant victory for the saffron party, which is growing its foothold in the state. Verka has a Dalit appearance, whereas Kangar and Sidhu are Jat leaders, and Arora has a Hindu appearance. It was expected that once Sunil Jakhar left the Congress and joined the saffron party, additional leaders would follow suit.

While reacting to the development, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Raja Amrinder Warring said that all those who defected to the BJP had “betrayed” the Congress “as an ungrateful son leaves his mother.” They were scared and needed a safe, secure political haven, and the BJP gave it, he added.