Lok Sabha Elections 2024: AAP’s Only MP in Punjab and Influential Dalit Leader Sushil Rinku Joins BJP

Punjab’s all 13 parliamentary seats are going to polls on June 1 in the first phase of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
This is the state’s second significant political upheaval of the month.
This is the state’s second significant political upheaval of the month.Image: Screen grab

New Delhi: In another blow to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, Sushil Kumar Rinku, its lone Lok Sabha MP and a formidable leader from the Dalit-majority Doaba region of Punjab, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on March 27 in the national capital. He represented the reserved constituency of Jalandhar.

This is the state’s second significant political upheaval of the month. Prominent leaders belonging to the Congress too have joined the BJP and the AAP in the last two weeks.

Ravneet Singh Bittu, a Congress leader and a Member of Parliament for Ludhiana, joined the saffron party earlier on March 26.

Dr. Raj Kumar Chabbewal, a sitting Congress MLA, joined the AAP a week ago.

Punjab’s all 13 parliamentary seats are going to polls on June 1 in the first phase of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Rinku switched sides despite his announcement as the AAP’s nominee for the Jalandhar seat. It is probable that he will run for the same seat on a BJP ticket. The constituency has 40% of Dalit population — highest in the nation.

For the AAP, Jalandhar has been a “safe” seat thus far. It has been learnt that Rinku eventually joined the BJP despite the AAP leadership’s best efforts to convince him otherwise.

In mid-March, there were reports that Rinku was about to join the BJP, but he continued to deny it. He once went so far as to post pictures from the Ram temple in Ayodhya to prove that he was in Ayodhya for religious purposes, and not in Delhi to join the BJP.

According to reports, he was not happy with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and the local leadership of the AAP because most of the development initiatives he planned to undertake while serving as the MP for Jalandhar did not allegedly materialise.

There were also reports that Rinku had been demanding money from AAP to contest the Lok Sabha elections, which caused division within the party hierarchy.

Mann and Rinku held a press conference in Jalandhar on March 19 in order to show the people a unified front.

Although it was well known that Rinku and Sheetal Angural, the incumbent AAP MLA for Jalandhar West, did not get along, the latter too joined the BJP in March with the former.

Rinku accused the AAP Punjab leadership of depriving Jalandhar of development after he joined the BJP. The MP claimed that he joined the BJP for further advancement of Punjab.

Many people posted a picture of him protesting at the Parliament during the Monsoon Session on social media. “This is not an MP in chains, it is a picture of India’s democracy chained by the dictatorial government of BJP,” said Rinku, who was wearing a mustard yellow turban and a chain around his chest while agitating against the BJP.

Reacting to the development, Chief Minister Mann shared a Punjabi poetry on X that roughly translates to: “the river may have believed it was headed to a large mansion, but once it entered the sea, it was finished. The cost of maintaining our composure is something we must pay; the bold can get away with it by snooping on others. We’ll hold Punjab’s head high with pride….”

When Rinku unexpectedly joined the AAP in 2023 during the Lok Sabha by-elections, he shocked everyone. The by-election was held following the sudden death of Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary.

The AAP nominated Rinku, who easily won the seat, while the Congress relied on Chaudhary’s legacy and fielded his wife Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary.

From Jalandhar, he began his political career in 2006 as a Congress councillor. He continued to spearhead the Opposition’s attacks and organized many protests on his own, earning him favor with former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

He oversaw a group of fellow Congress councillors — known as the”Dynamic Group” — within the party that kept the Opposition SAD-BJP on their toes.

In his first attempt, Rinku won the Jalandhar West (reserved) constituency in the 2017 Punjab Assembly election. Nevertheless, Sheetal Angural of the AAP won his seat in the Assembly in 2022.

His spouse continues to serve as a Congress councillor, representing their native Jalandhar West constituency.

This is the state’s second significant political upheaval of the month.
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