Former CM Beant Singh’s grandson moves to BJP | Latest News India

The dramatic move of Ludhiana member of Parliament Ravneet Singh Bittu from Congress to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sent shockwaves through the political landscape of Ludhiana. The unexpected development, coming shortly before the announcement of the candidates is not just a big blow to the Congress party, which was banking on Bittu to win a third time in a row, it is also a psychic break for the party who lost a chief minister to an assassination attempt. Bittu, after all, is the grandson of Beant Singh, who was blown up by a suicide bomber in 1995.

Newly joined BJP leader Ravneet Singh Bittu calls on party chief JP Nadda after joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2024, at JP Nadda's residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. (OfficeofJPNadda-X)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Newly joined BJP leader Ravneet Singh Bittu calls on party chief JP Nadda after joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2024, at JP Nadda’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. (OfficeofJPNadda-X)(HT_PRINT)

Bittu must not only tackle criticism for his move from family but also from close friends like former Punjab cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu.

Also read: Bharat Bhushan Ashu challenges ‘close pal’ Ravneet Bittu to contest from Ludhiana

The BJP has been striving to expand its presence in the state and Bittu’s move will help achieve that. The signs were present: Bittu spoke out in favour of the Ram Mandir consecration; remained absent from Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge-led workers’ convention in Samrala on February 11; and even made statements targeting Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over the Delhi Liquor Licence scam. Bittu was also often outspoken against radicals and the release of Sikh prisoners, while other Congress leaders would refrain from speaking on the issue.

The Congress party has started looking for a replacement — speculations swirl around Ashu, the former state minister of food and civil supplies, and member of Parliament from Anandpur Sahib, Manish Tewari, as the party’s pick from Ludhiana.

Shouldering a legacy

Punjab chief minister Beant Singh was assassinated on August 31, 1995, by the radical organisation Babbar Khalsa International, led by Wadhawa Singh. At least 15 people were accused in a suicide bomb attack.

Bittu, who joined politics at the age of 33 in the Youth Congress, was fielded from Sri Anandpur Sahib in 2009. He garnered more than 40% (404,000 votes) of the votes polled in the constituency, and defeated Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Dr Daljit Singh Cheema. In the 2014 election, the party fielded him from Ludhiana after Manish Tewari had shown reluctance in contesting from Ludhiana seat. Bittu polled over 300,000 votes (27.27% of votes polled). In 2019, he emerged as a winner again from Ludhiana with 383,000 votes (36.66%). He was briefly appointed as leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha when Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary was busy in the West Bengal election campaign in 2021.

Bittu was the torch bearer for the Congress protesting against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bhagwant Mann-led government. He hit the headlines after he put a lock on the main gate of a carcass plant in Nurpur Bet village on January 25 as a form of protest; a month later, on February 27, he also put a lock on the Municipal Corporation building, as a mark of protest supporting the residents of surrounding villages, who sought for the plant where carcasses of cattle were disposed to be shifted.

He was booked by the police in both cases and arrested on March 5 along with Ashu, District Congress president Sanjay Talwar and former senior deputy mayor Sham Sundar Malhotra. All three received bail on the same day. On March 12, a day before CM Bhagwant Mann was to arrive in Ludhiana, Bittu and Talwar were detained for a few hours to prevent any untoward incident.

Speaking of Bittu’s switch to the BJP, Talwar said that the timing allowed the party space to recover and regroup its resources behind a new candidate. Bittu, for his part, said his switch to the saffron party came out of his desire to do something for Ludhiana residents who sent him to parliament twice. Predicting a majority for the BJP in the upcoming elections, Bittu said that being in opposition would not give him the chances he wanted. He said he wanted to be a bridge between the government and locals, industrialists, as well as the farmers. Bittu opposed the farm laws strongly in the Parliament and indulged in a war of words with former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal over the now rescinded farm laws. He has also voiced his support for the current farmers’ protests.

However, his switch has left his family members surprised too. Former cabinet minister Gurkirat Singh Kotli, a cousin, said that Bittu was a responsible man and did not discuss the shift with him. Party leaders said that the move was likely because he wanted to make an impact in Ludhiana, which he couldn’t do by staying in the opposition for the past 10 years.

Jagmohan Sharma, a close aide to former chief minister Beant Singh, stated that it was Bittu’s own decision to switch. Sharma, who had served as District Congress president, switched to the BJP two years ago.

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