The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), junior partner in Punjab's ruling alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), on Sunday decided to oppose the proposed new taxes in the state.
As the BJP core group, which met for nearly three hours under state unit president Ashwani Kumar, said it would not allow the state government to impose additional taxes on sugar, flour (atta), pulses (dal) and clothes to enhance its revenue generation, the state cabinet's meeting, otherwise scheduled for the same day, was later declared postponed.
A majority within the BJP core group - which has now met on the issue for the fourth time - was not in favour of professional or property taxes in the state, further exposing sharp differences with the SAD.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had specifically summoned the cabinet on Sunday to enable a consensus on fresh taxes, on the heels of three joint meetings with the BJP. In fact, to prevail upon the BJP, senior state officials were made to give two presentation to the party as to why the new taxes were important.
Both attempts have failed, though.
The BJP remains apprehensive that any new tax would have a direct bearing on its political vote bank, which lies primarily in the urban areas and some semi-urban belts.
During the meeting - attended by cabinet ministers Bhagat Chunni Lal and Madan Mohan Mittal, Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, and senior leaders Manoranjan Kalia, Tikshan Sud, Gurcharan Kaur, Ajay Jamwal and Manjit Singh Rai - there was a view that despite new taxes, the rural base of the Akalis could remain intact as the government would continue to give freebies to that section.
"It is not a question of saving our own political base. We are worried about the people as a whole. We remain opposed to further burdening the common man who is already reeling under massive inflation," a senior BJP leader, who was part of the meeting, insisted.