The top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has assured its political ally, the rattled Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), that ties between the time-tested alliance partners will remain intact and unharmed, notwithstanding the offensive Punjab BJP leaders have launched against the SAD leadership, it is learnt.
Sources said the SAD fielded union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to take up the matter with the central BJP leadership. On Tuesday, she met union finance minister Arun Jaitley and apprised the senior BJP leader of the strained SAD-BJP ties in Punjab. She reportedly told Jaitley about a section of the BJP leaders creating a disturbing perception that the saffron party could sever its ties with the SAD, post the Haryana poll verdict.
Sources added that SAD’s Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral also met a section of senior BJP leaders in New Delhi and informed them of the boiling tension in Punjab due to ‘unwarranted’ accusations of the BJP against SAD leaders.
SAD sources said Jaitley, in Harsimrat’s presence, briefed BJP president Amit Shah on the phone about the SAD’s ‘concerns’ and their impact on the coalition government in the border state.
While assuring the visiting Akali leader that there was no question of the BJP following the Maharashtra and Haryana model in Punjab, Jaitley telephoned chief minister Parkash Singh Badal around 9pm on Tuesday.
Sources added that the union finance minister assured the CM that the SAD-BJP alliance would remain intact, irrespective of the recent tension.
At the centre of this tension is BJP leader and former Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose provocative posturing prompted the SAD to knock at the doors of the BJP leadership.
Badal is understood to have briefed Jaitley about how Sidhu was queering the pitch in Punjab.
Assuring Badal that there was no question of any threat to the SAD-BJP alliance, the saffron party conveyed this message to its cadre in Punjab also.
SAD sources claimed that when Badal referred to the “disturbing language used by Sidhu”, the union minister reportedly stated that what Sidhu had said was not in sync with the BJP’s policy and line.
The SAD-BJP ties have hit their nadir, with state BJP leaders taking a tough stance over political and administrative decisions being taken by the SAD.
The tension escalated during campaigning for the assembly elections in Haryana, where the SAD is an alliance partner of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) -- the party being perceived as the only major stumbling block in the BJP’s plans of emerging as the single largest party in that state.
Serious cracks appeared in the SAD-BJP ties when Sidhu targeted Badal and his son, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, while raising prickly issues revolving around alleged corruption.
After Sidhu questioned the SAD’s “unholy alliance” with the INLD and challenged the Badals for a debate, while indicating that the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab was on the verge of collapse, the Akalis decided to directly engage the central BJP leadership, said SAD sources.