The tried-and-tested 'two-mayors-each' arrangement between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is apparently under threat.
The SAD's above-par performance in the June 10 municipal corporation elections and the party's keenness to have its own mayor from Amritsar seem to have made its coalition partner uneasy. According to the SAD, the issue would be resolved when top leaders of both parties meet next week.
On Sunday, the alliance had retained power in the MCs of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala. Ever since the two parties teamed up in Punjab in 1997, the BJP has held the mayoral posts in Amritsar and Jalandhar, while Patiala and Ludhiana have had SAD mayors. However, Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhumma's demand for an Akali mayor from Amritsar may change the coalition equation this time.
"The Damdami Taksal and the Sant Samaj want an Akali mayor for Amritsar as the city houses the highest temporal seat of the Sikh community," Dhumma told Hindustan Times on the phone. On being asked if the SAD and the BJP would concur on the matter, he said it was for chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to take a call.
"The final decision would be reached after SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal returns from abroad and meet BJP leaders," said cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia, who also flew abroad after attending the bhog ceremony of late BJP MLA Amarjit Singh Sahi. Sukhbir is expected to return on June 19.
"The SAD-BJP alliance is holy and it would continue for a long time," Majithia asserted. Both parties won 24 seats each in Amritsar this time, but the re-poll in two wards can prove crucial for deciding on the mayoral post. The SAD won more seats than the BJP in Patiala and Ludhiana, while it was the other way round in Jalandhar.
"There is no room for a rethink. As per the coalition arrangement, Amritsar and Jalandhar are with us and the other two MCs with the SAD," said JP Nadda, Rajya Sabha MP and Punjab BJP affairs incharge.
The two parties have not seen eye to eye recently over the Operation Bluestar memorial and honouring of Balwant Singh Rajoana - on death row for former chief minister Beant Singh's assassination - by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.