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Will Sunil Jakhar’s elevation in Punjab help BJP win 2024 Lok Sabha polls?

BJP President JP Nadda with newly appointed Punjab state BJP chief Sunil Jakhar

Two parties and the same role, 69 year old BJP leader Sunil Jakhar has managed an unprecedented political feat in Punjab.

Jakhar who served as Congress President in Punjab from 2017 to 2022 in Congress will now be taking up the same position in Punjab BJP. Jakhar would replace Pathankot MLA Ashwani Sharma as his three year term comes to an end. Jakhar’s appointment is being seen as a big political move by the BJP ahead of 2024 general elections. With Jakhar the party now has a Hindu Jat as its face in Punjab who is expected to shore up its fragile electoral position  and keep the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in check which, after forming government in the state, has emerged as a new challenger to the saffron party.

Jakhar after resuming the charge said that his sole aim would be to strengthen the party on all 13 Lok Sabha and 117 assembly seats and present the outfit as the most viable alternative to the existing political parties in the state. He went to Delhi for a thanksgiving meeting with BJP president JP Nadda. He did not comment on the possibility of any possibility or re-alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has quit the NDA in 2021 protesting the three farm laws. “Any alliance talks in Punjab are a prerogative of the party’s central leadership but my objective would be to ensure that we negotiate anything from a position of strength”, Jhakar said.

Political analysts feel that BJP is trying to claim Malwa region which it could never gain while collaborating with SAD. The region was captured by AAP in the last elections. Jakhar, former Lok Sabha MP from Gurdaspur hails from Malwa and with Captain Amarinder Singh BJP accepts to achieve the control over the region.

Born in Panjkosi village of Punjab’s Fazilka district, Jakhar has consecutively won assembly polls thrice from 2002-2017 from Abohar assembly segment and had also remained leader of the opposition in the Vidhan Sabha from 2012-2017. Later he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency in the 2017 bypoll. However, he lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Gurdaspur to BJP candidate Sunny Deol. Though Jakhar did not contest the February 2022 Vidhan Sabha polls, his nephew and Congress leader Sandeep defeated BJP MLA Arun Narang from Abohar in his first election.

Jakhar is also close to Home Minister Amit Shah and is being entrusted with to be at helm of party affairs in state. Jakhar has so far not issued any statement while close aide former CM Amarinder Singh has congratulated him saying he will do great in this role also.
Earlier, on December 2 last year, the BJP had appointed Jakhar as well as former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh as members of the party’s national executive which deliberates to frame the organisation’s agenda.
Eyeing the 2024 parliamentary elections, the BJP top brass is also of the opinion that Jakhar would not only benefit the party in Punjab but also in the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha polls scheduled later this year.
His father, late Balram Jakhar, who also remained as Lok Sabha Speaker, was elected to the Lok Sabha from Sikar in Rajasthan in 1984 as well as in 1991.

Jakhar’s biggest challenge in state is expected be to prepare the party cadre marred by factionalism for the next year’s parliamentary polls, to carry along all BJP cadre leaders who are expected to have heartburn seeing him head the party’s state unit just after 13 months of joining the party, as well as his comrades from the Congress who had joined the saffron party last year like him.
In case, the BJP continues firm on its stand to not re-enter into an alliance with its old ally SAD before the next year’s Lok Sabha polls, it would be a challenging task for the BJP to contest all the 13 parliamentary constituencies in the state.