Amit Shah's rally raises storm in Punjab politics

  • IANS, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jan 16, 2015 17:01 IST

Even before it has been held, BJP president Amit Shah's rally in Amritsar to launch a campaign against drugs in Punjab has created a virtual storm. It has not only brought out fissures within the Akali Dal-BJP alliance but led to infighting in the Congress too.

The rally, postponed twice this month, was to be held initially Jan 12. The date was later shifted to Jan 22. But, with the Delhi assembly polls announced for Feb 7, it has been postponed again. It will be held some time in February.

After the Punjab BJP leadership announced that the anti-drugs campaign would be launched at Shah's rally, it caused a lot of heartburn to its ally, the Akali Dal. This was because the BJP gave, and the Akalis assumed, the impression that the blame for the drugs problem was on the Akali Dal government and its leaders.

This was mainly a fallout of the Enforcement Directorate summoning Punjab's revenue minister and Sukhbir Badal's brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia for questioning in a money laundering racket involving NRIs linked to a Rs.6,000 crore international synthetic drugs racket busted in 2013 by Punjab Police.

The Akalis, led by its president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, tried to pre-empt the BJP rally of Jan 12 by announcing that they would hold protests Jan 5 against the Border Security Force (BSF) along the border with Pakistan for failing to curb smuggling of drugs into Punjab.

The Akali Dal move was to embarrass the Narendra Modi-led government. Sukhbir Badal's wife and Bikram's sister Harsimrat Badal is a minister in the Modi cabinet.

The whole episode and statements of Akali Dal and BJP leaders made it clear that the Amit Shah rally had ruffled feathers in the ruling alliance.

As the Akalis announced the Jan 5 date for protests, the BJP shifted the Shah rally to Jan 22. This led to another controversy - this time in the opposition Congress.

Former chief minister and Congress MP from Amritsar Amarinder Singh announced that he would hold a parallel rally the same day (Jan 22) to counter Shah's rally in Amritsar. He even rallied 35 of the Congress' 45 legislators and top leaders for the showdown with the BJP.

The Amarinder move was not to the liking of Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa and his supporters. Feeling isolated, Bajwa tried to hijack the Amarinder move by claiming that the rally to counter the BJP's rally was a state Congress event.

Amarinder, who has gone public about his dislike for Bajwa and has even sought his removal from the post from the party high command, immediately rebutted Bajwa.

Both Congress leaders were involved in a bitter war of words over countering the BJP president.

The anti-climax was that the BJP postponed the Jan 22 rally saying Shah and other leaders would be busy with the Delhi elections. Amarinder and his camp immediately claimed victory, saying the BJP "ran away" after the threat to counter Shah.

BJP leaders are now saying that the anti-drugs rally will surely be held, but only after the Delhi elections. The new date is set to bring another set of political fireworks in Punjab.

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