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After Haryana and Maharashtra, will BJP play the stake alone in Punjab?

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By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh: After every few months, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance undergoes a self-imposed test to check whether or not its political bond is strong.

In recent weeks, the ties between the allies have again undergone a reaffirming test from top leaders after actions and utterances of state leaders of both sides clearly pointed to differences.

File Photo.
File Photo.

The BJP leadership, by occasionally raking up differences, is certainly testing the political waters to check if it can go alone in the 2017 assembly polls. Leaders of both the parties know for sure that they cannot encroach on each other’s votebank as the Akali Dal is strong in the Sikh-dominated rural Punjab and the BJP has its hold on the Hindu-dominated urban areas.

Some bonhomie was witnessed this week in Amritsar with union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and union Urban Development Minister M. Venkiaih Naidu sharing the stage with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal (of the Akali Dal) and other leaders of the two parties.

Badal senior and Jaitley had to even categorically say that the alliance was strong and would continue.

The chief minister, at a recent media interaction, was even more specific in stating that the allies would contest the assembly polls together.

But at periodical intervals, top leaders of both sides have to reaffirm that the alliance is strong enough and is likely to continue.

Having been in power in the frontier state of Punjab since 2007, including the alliance returning to power in the 2012 assembly polls, there have been occasions when their leaders have differed on certain issues.

A recent provocation was the Punjab government openly favouring Khalistan-linked activists and convicted terrorists and seeking that they be shifted to prisons in Punjab. The BJP, which has made its stand clear on dealing with terrorism and terrorists, was clearly upset.

Even on other state-level issues, differences have cropped up between ministers and legislators of both sides.

Industry Minister Madan Mohan Mittal, a BJP man, has made his displeasure known about the manner in which decisions regarding his key portfolio were being taken by Badal junior. These are especially related to policy issues, announcements and new plans.

Another BJP minister, Anil Joshi, has had run-ins with Akali Dal leaders and ministers in the past.

At times, leaders from both sides have taken a stand on issues and given vent to feelings through the media. But then, the senior leaders from both sides, after watching matters for some time, intervened to stop things from aggravating. Badal senior had to recently say that the relations between the two sides were not “strained”.

Even after the photo-ops and camaraderie of leaders of both sides, issues will keep cropping up at the state heads closer to the elections to the 117 assembly seats. The BJP, which has been the smaller partner to the Akali Dal so far, is likely to seek a bigger role or even decide to go it alone like it did in Maharashtra and Haryana last October.

(IANS)

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Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Intact

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient

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Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.

By Sagarneel Sinha

There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!

Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.

Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.

This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.