A veteran Congress leader, a three-time member of the legislative assembly and a former member of parliament, Sunil Jakhar served as the head of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President between 2017 and 2021. Amid political turmoil in the state in mid-2021, the Congress high command removed Jakhar from the post to make way for the cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. When tensions between Sidhu and the then chief minister Amarinder Singh came to a head in late 2021, resulting in the latter’s exit from the party, Jakhar was among the main contenders to take over the post. Despite receiving more than eighty percent of the votes from Congress’s largely Sikh MLAs, Jakhar, a Hindu, was not selected to succeed Amarinder —the high command chose Charanjit Singh Channi.
In the run-up to the Punjab assembly polls, Jakhar announced that he was quitting active politics. He, however, rubbished rumours that he was leaving the Congress party. “I am very much with Congress,” he told Jatinder Kaur Tur, a contributing writer at The Caravan. He spoke to Tur about the Congress’s failures and the choices facing the people of Punjab on 20 February, when the state goes to polls. According to him, aside from the Congress, every party in the running is a stand-in for the Bharatiya Janata Party. “All roads would lead to BJP if people don’t exercise their vote for Congress,” he said.
Jatinder Kaur Tur: Are you quitting politics?
Sunil Jakhar: I am not, and never was in the race for the post of chief minister. Despite not being the MLA or the PPCC president, I got 42 votes of [Congress] MLAs who wanted me to be the chief minister—that support is my real earning and position and I am happy with that. I am just not a part of electoral politics anymore but would continue to be a part and parcel of politics and the Congress.