After losing the Gurdaspur seat to BJP’s Sunny Deol, Sunil Jakhar has sent his resignation as Punjab Congress chief to party president Rahul Gandhi, a step which chief minister Amarinder Singh felt was “totally unnecessary”.
“He sent his resignation to Rahul ji a day after the results were declared,” an aide of Jakhar said Monday.
Jakhar was on his way to Delhi and was not immediately available for comment.
In the letter, Jakhar mentioned that despite the support of party’s senior leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Amarinder Singh, he could not retain the seat.
The ruling Congress in Punjab won eight out of 13 parliamentary seats in the state, bucking the pro-Modi trend.
Jakhar had won the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in the by-polls in October 2017. It had fallen vacant after the death of BJP MP Vinod Khanna.
The Congress leader had then defeated BJP’s Swaran Salaria by a margin of over 1.93 lakh votes.
However, Jakhar lost the seat this time to actor-turned-politician Deol by a margin of 82,459 votes.
Five years ago, Jakhar, who was then Punjab Congress Legislature Party leader, had submitted his resignation from the post after losing the Ferozepur Lok Sabha seat.
However, his resignation was rejected by then party president Sonia Gandhi.
Stressing that the Congress’ had performed impressively in Punjab and hence, there was no need for Jakhar to step down, Amarinder Singh said the Punjab Congress chief had had not discussed the issue with him before deciding to quit.
“Had he discussed the matter with me I would have categorically advised him against quitting as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president,” said Amarinder Singh, in a statement issued here on Monday.
The chief minister said there was absolutely no reason for Jakhar to quit on the ground he did.
“Other state Congress presidents had quit taking responsibility for the poor performance of the party in their respective states,” he said, contrasting their case with that of Jakhar, under whose leadership the Punjab Congress had defied all electoral trends at the national level and that of the majority of the states.
Jakhar had led the PPCC to a great showing in these Lok Sabha elections, despite the pro-BJP wave across the country, and the state Congress needed him to further strengthen the party’s standing in Punjab, said Amarinder Singh.
On Jakhar’s own defeat from Gurdaspur, which he had cited as his reason for quitting, the chief minister said the PPCC chief was not to be blamed for the loss.
“The people of Gurdaspur opted for star adulation against a seasoned politician who had worked hard for the development of the constituency in the past about 18 months,” Amarinder Singh said.
“The defeat of Jakhar at the hands of Bollywood star Sunny Deol was unfortunate and simply showed that polity in the country is yet to evolve,” he said, expressing hope that the people would eventually learn to take these critical decisions “based on the quality of the candidate and not on account of his/her star value”.
Amarinder Singh hoped the party high command would reject Jakhar’s resignation, “which was clearly the result of an emotional reaction”.
“While Jakhar’s spirit in serving his resignation could be respected, putting aside a hardworking and committed leader like him would send the wrong message down the rank and file of the Punjab Congress,” he added.