Differences in the ruling SAD-BJP coalition in Punjab over the SGPC honour to former chief minister Beant Singh's killer Balwant Singh Rajoana came to the fore on Thursday when state health minister Madan Mohan Mittal announced in the House: "The BJP doesn't consider a murderer (to be) a martyr."
Though the BJP was opposed to the honour of 'jinda shaheed or living martyr' for Rajoana by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, it was for the first time that it spelt out its stand openly.
The party had desisted from making a statement on the issue in the House, but it was left with no option when the opposition Congress cornered it by repeatedly forcing it to clarify its stand on support to coalition partner SAD on building a Bluestar memorial and declaring Rajoana a martyr.
Mittal made the remark when chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had left the House.
The SGPC's honour to Rajoana in April did not go down well with the BJP, which wanted the SAD to clarify its stand on the issue. The SAD was yet to react to the BJP's demand when the issue of the Bluestar memorial being built by the Damdami Taksal in memory of those killed in Darbar Sahib during the army action of 1984 cropped up.
The BJP was of the view that the memorial would only serve as a reminder of the decade of militancy in Punjab and could disturb the hard-earned peace.
The Congress and BJP held similar views on both the issues.
In the assembly on Thursday, Mittal said, "The BJP has never supported terrorists and terrorism. It was the Congress government at the Centre that supported terrorism in Punjab, whereas the BJP always opposed it."
Before the start of the assembly session on Tuesday, the BJP had decided to maintain silence in the House as a mark of protest against coalition partner SAD on its demand for the mayoral post of Amritsar. Today, however, it was provoked by the Congress and was left with no option but to spell out its stand on Bluestar memorial and Rajoana.
Earlier, reading out a news report in the Vidhan Sabha, leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar alleged that BJP MLAs were sticking to their cabinet berths and not speaking out against their coalition partner. He even said that BJP's national leaders were headed for Punjab to raise their voice against the memorial and the honour to Rajoana, while local leaders were unable to voice their dissent.
This was enough to provoke Mittal to stand up and say, "Now I will teach you a lesson on terrorism. In 1992 after terrorism, when elections were announced in Punjab, then Prime Minister Narsimha Rao had told me to support the Congress in forming the government as the Congress did not have a good image."