A day after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reaffirmed their plan to jointly contest the upcoming civic body polls in Punjab, an assertive BJP said on Thursday that it would seek “expansion” in seats wherever it would feel appropriate.
Though Wednesday’s meeting put to rest speculation of BJP going it alone in the municipal polls, the party’s state unit chief, Kamal Sharma, said the SAD was told the BJP “won’t tolerate browbeating”. It also made it clear that the SAD won’t have the upper hand in deciding candidates.
Addressing the BJP’s long-running peeve of not being given its due in the local body polls, the SAD “assured” the BJP that it would be a “smooth affair” for the partners this time. “It was decided at the meeting that wherever adjustment, or expansion, is required, that would be amicably settled,” Kamal told HT over phone.
SAD spokesman Maheshinder Grewal later said his party won’t make the BJP feel let down: “We (SAD and BJP) have a very long association and the SAD is committed to living up to each other’s expectations. I assure that nothing would happen that causes heartburn for BJP or make them feel let down and aggrieved.”
From the SAD, Wednesday’s meeting was attended by CM Parkash Singh Badal, deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, MPs Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Balwinder Singh Bhunder, ministers Tota Singh and Daljit Singh Cheema, and general secretaries Maheshinder Singh Grewal and Harcharan Singh Bains. The BJP was represented by Kamal, BJP legislature party leader Chunni Lal Bhagat, former state unit chiefs Rajinder Bhandari and Ashwani Sharma, besides Tikshan Sud and Narottam Dev Ratti.
It was decided that a two-member committee — Cheema and Sud — would resolve issues on seat-sharing.
MAYOR POST CLAIM
About claims to the mayoral posts in existing corporations and new ones, Kamal told HT, “There is no doubt that the BJP will have its mayors in Amritsar and Jalandhar, and the SAD in Ludhiana, Bathinda and Patiala.” This is the existing arrangement. The state BJP chief also asserted that the party would continue to have the top-post claim in Phagwara, Pathankot and Hoshiarpur that have been upgraded to corporations from councils, while the SAD would have the claim to mayoral posts in Moga and Mohali.
He added, “A ward in which a BJP candidate is contesting, the SAD won’t interfere; and vice-versa.” In case of a BJP ward splitting into two, the BJP would contest on both, he added, and said the party would have an equal share over new wards.
MOVE ON TANDON PANEL
It was also decided at Wednesday night’s meeting that the recommendations of the Tandon Committee would be implemented, said Kamal.
The report was made by Balramji Dass Tandon (now governor of Chhattisgarh) after a below-par show by the SAD-BJP alliance in the Lok Sabha polls. It had raised the issues of drugs, lack of clarity on property tax, traders feeling ignored because of favours to farmers, skyrocketing prices of sand and gravel, and the Akali halqa in-charge system, as reasons for the poor show.
According to Kamal, a committee with Grewal and Ratti “will make sure that all recommendations are implemented”.