After months of chill between Punjab’s allies in power, the state BJP warmed up to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on the occasion of the Maghi Mela at the historic gurdwara Tuti-gandi Sahib here.
Doing a U-turn on his earlier statements that the BJP would not join the SAD in its fight against drugs (through border rallies), BJP president Kamal Sharma said the state and central governments would jointly fight the menace.
Reciprocating with the matching warmth, the SAD also showed no hesitation in curbing rumours of a divide in the alliance. “We have close ties that are unbreakable,” said chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The humiliation of the Ferozepur and Jalandhar cantonment election results was writ large on the face of Sharma, who was even honoured with a siropa on the stage.
While the BJP steered clear of making any reference to Amit Shah’s proposed anti-drug rally in Amritsar, the Akalis made no formal announcement of a ‘lok lehar’ campaign on the occasion, as was being expected.
Interestingly, it was Sharma who mentioned that the chief minister would announce the ‘lok lehar’ campaign against social evils, but neither the chief minister nor the deputy chief minister made any mention of it. Instead both listed the development projects that had been cleared by the Narendra Modi-led central government in their speeches.
The chief minister, while pointing to the leadership of the alliance partners sharing the stage, said the SAD-BJP alliance was a unique phenomenon in the Indian democratic system that had stood the test of time by passing every litmus test. “The Congress is waiting for our alliance to end. Their wish will never be granted. They will keep waiting for ever. Leaders of the SAD-BJP should work together to fight drugs and social evils in the state,” Badal reiterated.
Meanwhile, an unemployed lineman tried to immolate himself outside the venue of the SAD-BJP conference.
At the Congress conference, just four MLAs, including two whose assembly segments fall in Muktsar, showed up for the Maghi Mela conference against an overwhelming majority of MLAs present at the recent show of strength by deputy leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh in Patiala. State Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa tried to resurrect himself as a “challenger” to political opponents outside the party than within it. Though the party succeeded in pulling the crowds, it failed to put up a united face with even Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar staying away. But former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal attended the rally.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which was holding its first political conference at the Mela, launched a frontal attack on the CM for “nepotism” in the SAD. They also took a dig at the Congress as a “failed and fragmented” opposition while dubbing the BJP as “a communal party flaring up religious conversions”.
People’s Party of Punjab president Manpreet Singh Badal demanded that the government should immediately make a legislation to confiscate the property of those convicted of drug peddling.
(With inputs from Prabhjit Singh, Raghbir Singh Brar and Sachin Sharma)