Manjinder Sirsa Joins BJP Ahead Of Punjab Polls In Big Blow To Ex-Ally Akali

The BJP is in touch with many Jat Sikh leaders like Manjinder Sirsa in Punjab, according to its leaders.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa's exit is likely a big setback for the Shiromali Akali Dal

New Delhi:

The BJP made a key acquisition ahead of the Punjab election, but at a cost to its former ally Akali Dal. Manjinder Sirsa, an Akali Dal leader close to the Badals, joined the ruling party.

The BJP is in touch with many Jat Sikh leaders like Manjinder Sirsa in Punjab, according to its leaders. The party's strategy for the approaching Punjab polls is to tap disgruntled leaders from the Congress and Akali Dal and shore up its prospects in a state where it has only ever played second fiddle.

Mr Sirsa's exit is a setback for the Akali Dal, which is trying to regain lost ground in Punjab, a state it ruled till 2017.

Mr Sirsa, 48, is a Sikh politician from Sirsa in Haryana. He was a close aide of Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.

A former Delhi MLA, Mr Sirsa is also the chief of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.

He became the face of the farmer protests in Delhi, after regularly arranging langar or community meals for protesters who camped on roads outside the capital for over a year.

Mr Sirsa also went to other states like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand when farmers marching towards Delhi to launch their protests were stopped by the state governments.

As the chief of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Mr Sirsa faced criticism when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honoured with a Siropa (robe of honour for Sikhs) during his impromptu visit to the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi last year.

If Mr Sirsa joins, the BJP will acquire a big Jat Sikh face before the Punjab polls.

After its break-up with the Akali Dal, the BJP's Punjab ambitions soared after Congress veteran Amarinder Singh quit his party after being replaced as Chief Minister.

Amarinder Singh has floated his own party and is openly working on a tie-up with the BJP, having pledged to fight the Congress and its Punjab chief Navjot Sidhu, his bitter rival.

The central government's recent rollback of three controversial farm laws signalled how invested the ruling BJP is on securing its prospects in Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh, where farmers are a powerful bloc.

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