Chandigarh: Former Punjab finance minister and Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday, a step he claimed was made after “disappointing disillusionment” with his former party.
“How can you operate in a party which is at war with itself?” Manpreet said about the Congress at his joining ceremony in New Delhi which was attended by Union Minister Piyush Goyal and BJP national general secretary from Punjab, Tarun Chugh.
Referring to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Manpreet said it was a rarity to meet a “lion” in politics. Manpreet added that he could see India and Punjab progressing under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team.
The five-time MLA joins a prominent group of Punjab Congressmen, including former chief minister Amarinder Singh and former state unit chief Sunil Jakhar, who have switched parties in the past one year.
Earlier, Manpreet was missing from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra which entered Punjab on 10 January. In the last year’s Punjab election, he lost to AAP’s Jagroop Singh Gill by a whopping margin of over 60,000 votes.
Although it was widely known that Manpreet does not get along with Congress state chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring and former state head Navjot Singh Sidhu, his joining the BJP has come as a surprise to party members.
Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh highlighted how Manpreet had frequently changed his political allegiance.
“A man who left Akali Dal to make his own party and then joined the Congress, was made Finance Minister for 5 years, then lost by a record margin of over 60k and thereafter went into hibernation now joins BJP,” he tweeted.
In his strongly worded resignation letter, Manpreet hit out at the Congress leadership in Delhi for giving the reins of the party in Punjab to the wrong people.
“I do not see the point in elaborating extensively on all the particular proceedings that led to my ultimate and irrevocable disaffection. Suffice it to say, that the manner in which the Congress party has conducted its affairs and taken decisions, specifically with regards to Punjab, has been disheartening to say the least,” he wrote in his letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi and posted on Twitter.
“The coterie of men entrusted with the authority to dictate Delhi’s writ to the Punjab unit of the Congress are far from sound. Instead of striving to reduce internal disagreements in an already divided house, these men acted to further increase factionism, and almost as a matter of policy strengthened the very worst elements within the party,” it read.
Initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to disappointing disillusionment, he added.
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Changed parties over the years
A nephew of Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, Manpreet had left the SAD in 2010 to form his own outfit, the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), in 2011. The PPP contested the 2012 Punjab elections but his party managed only a little over 5 per cent of the vote share.
It was Manpreet who introduced Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann into electoral politics through his PPP. Mann later joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2014.
In 2016, Manpreet merged his PPP with the Congress and went on to contest in the assembly election next year. Although Manpreet’s home seat was Gidderbaha from where he had won multiple times, he successfully contested as the Bathinda candidate for the Congress party.
Warring, meanwhile, contested from Gidderbaha and won. This shifting of seats became a serious point of contention between the two leaders. The duo sparred through the entire duration of the period that then chief minister Amarinder Singh was in power.
Manpreet, who was the finance minister in the Parkash Singh Badal ministry, was given the same portfolio by Amarinder. He remained the finance minister even after Amarinder was removed as the chief minister in September 2021. An avid reader with a penchant for Urdu poetry, the senior Punjab leader holds the record of presenting the Punjab budget nine times.
Manpreet is said to have played an important role in pushing Charanjit Singh Channi’s case to become the chief minister, upsetting Sidhu who was then in the running for the chief ministerial position.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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