The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Sunday returned fire to ally BJP over the blame for the coalition's relatively bad performance in the Lok Sahba polls in Punjab. SAD Rajya Sabha MPs Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder issued a statement taking "strong exception" to recent comments of some Punjab BJP leaders "casting aspersions" on their Akali colleagues.
Calling for the national BJP leadership to rein in the state unit, the two Akali veterans sought to also blame the BJP on illegal mining and property tax, while not saying much on the drug racket. In the 2014 LS results, the SAD stayed at its 2009 tally of four while the BJP won two as compared to 2009's one. However, the result of Punjab's 13 seats - three went to Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party got all its four seats here - was a reflection of how the 'wave' in favour of BJP leader Narendra Modi BJP had not worked here. This has led to tension between the partners.
State BJP chief Kamal Sharma had, in an interview to HT on Saturday, welcomed the resignation of SAD minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur over the drug racket as a good "first step". About another Akali minister, Bikram Singh Majithia, he had said, "All those named need to come clean."
BJP veteran Balramji Dass Tandon had also issued a statement referring to a "volcano of anti-incumbency", while MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, in conversation with HT, had blamed the Akalis for the defeat of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who had replaced her husband and three-time MP Navjot Singh Sidhu as the candidate from Amritsar.
Dhindsa and Bhunder, SAD general secretaries, considered among the closest associates of chief minister and party patron Parkash Singh Badal, described the BJP leaders' statements as "a violation of the coalition dharma".
On property tax and sand mining, they said, "These issues pertain to the departments of local government and of industry, and both have BJP ministers in charge who enjoy complete freedom… It is wrong to blame decisions and policies of these departments on the SAD. In fact, the BJP ministers and leaders are consulted even on other departments."
Going further on illegal mining, the Akali leaders said, "A committee was set up under the chairmanship of Madan Mohan Mittal with the industries minister, Anil Joshi, as a member." Both are BJP leaders. "The recommendations of the committee were accepted and implemented in toto. The problem of sand in the state is only due to the [central government's] refusal of environmental clearance to sand mines in the state. Even then, sand sells cheaper in Punjab than in neighbouring Haryana or Delhi."
"Property tax in its present form was also a decision of the department of local government headed by a BJP minister," the leaders said.
Thus, they termed the statements as "factually wrong" and also advised that "no one should try to take political mileage at the expense of one's long-standing political partners". Stressing that the SAD-BJP coalition was the "oldest in the country", Dhindsa and Bhunder asked the Punjab unit leaders of the BJP not to "do or say anything which might amount to an embarrassment to the senior leaders of the two parties who share complete trust".
"Let's not play into the hands of the corrupt Congress party in the country as it would send a wrong signal everywhere," read the statement.