It is the season of turncoats in Punjab. Elections in the state have turned into a game of musical chairs that is likely to continue till the last phase of polling in June. All the political parties in the fray - the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – are participants in the ongoing shenanigans leaving voters rather confused.

The play out is most visible in the reserved seat of Jalandhar. Here the sitting Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Sushil Kumar Rinku had switched from AAP to the BJP and is now the saffron party’s candidate on this seat. He had earlier moved from the Congress party to AAP and was announced by the latter as its candidate, before moving again to the BJP. All this in less than three years.

On the same seat Congress leader Mohinder Singh Kaypee joined the Akali Dal just last week and was announced as the candidate by party president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

In Jalandhar the Akali Dal leader Pawan Kumar Tinu has left the parent organisation and joined AAP two weeks ago. He is now contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the ruling party in the state.

Jalandhar has also seen the exit of Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary and his mother Karamjit Kaur from the Congress party. Vikramjit is the Phillaur MLA, and his mother had contested the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypolls against Rinku unsuccessfully last year. The grand old party has now fielded former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi on this seat.

Similarly in the neighbouring Hoshiarpur district Raj Kumar Chabbewal of the Congress party has gone on to join the AAP. He is now the AAP candidate for these elections. He had won the Chabbewal seat for the Congress in the 2022 assembly polls. Interestingly it is the same AAP that had earlier accused him of forgery and cheating.

One of the major turncoats of the season is Ravneet Singh Bittu who is the grandson of former Congress chief minister Beant Singh. The sitting Ludhiana Lok Sabha member recently moved over to the BJP.

In the reserved constituency of Fatehgarh Sahib, former Bassi Pathana MLA Gurpreet Singh GP has jumped ship from the Congress to the AAP that has given him a ticket for the parliamentary elections.

Patiala too has seen the sitting Congress Lok Sabha member Preneet Kaur join the BJP. She eventually followed the footsteps of her husband Captain Amarinder Singh. Her decision to leave the Congress was expected for a while.

The Congress party is the worst hit by desertions. AAP seems to have benefited as a total of 13 candidates fielded by the party in these elections are imports from its political rivals.

The BJP too has been witnessing its share of internal turbulence which has not hit the headlines but managing to keep it out of the news to some extent. Sources said that the BJP has now managed to pacify one of the senior leaders Vijay Sampla who was expected to join the Akali Dal after being denied the party ticket from Hoshiaropur. It took the persuasive powers of the Punjab party in-charge Vijay Rupani and state unit chief Sunil Jakhar to persuade the former chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes not to leave the party.

Sampla has said that will remain the loyal soldier of the party despite having received a raw deal. “I have always been loyal to the party but this loyalty has become a liability for me. Had the party reposed faith in me and given me the ticket, it would have silenced my critics who have leveled all sorts of allegations against me,” he said in a media interaction recently.

A day before Sampla’s nephew and close confidante Robin Sampla had left the BJP for the AAP.

Earlier Kavita Khanna who is the wife of former Gurdaspur MP Vinod Khanna was upset over being denied the party ticket from the seat. In 2019 also the party had fielded film actor Sunny Deol from the seat denying her the ticket. This time the party has fielded Dinesh Babbu.

Kavita recently laid to rest rumours about joining the Akali Dal.

There is simmering discontent amongst old timers in the Akali Dal about the decision to accommodate dissidents, particularly erstwhile Congress heavyweights like former chief minister Amarinder Singh and Jakhar.

Recently, Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also expressed his displeasure over the party’s decision not to give his son Parminder Singh Dhindsa the ticket from the prestigious Sangrur seat. The Akalis have put their weight behind Iqbal Singh Jhundan instead. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa had merged his splinter Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) with the SAD (Badal) only last month in the hope of getting a ticket for his son.

Senior political observer Vijay Bombeli who has been chronicling the political history of Punjab told this reporter, “The people perceive that the political class is just after the chair. They have the least ideological considerations and commitments. They are shocked even at the hardliners jumping over the fence. Come to think of it, the same Chabbewal that the AAP accused of punishable crimes has been fielded by the same party. The same Kaypee who is a relative of Channi has jumped over to the Akalis just because he saw an opportunity in the latter not having a credible face on the seat.”

He also stated that unlike the other states where the polling in the first two phases has seen a decline, Punjab will ensure a good percentage of polling despite all the turncoats because the people are looking to vent their frustration and anger.