Staying away from the ongoing war of words between the alliance partners, the BJP and SAD, in Punjab, newly appointed union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Vijay Sampla treaded cautiously on his arrival here on Wednesday.
Talking to reporters, Sampla, 53, said the scheduled castes were safe in the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and he would act as an advocate of all strata and castes of Punjab to take up their issues with the Centre.
At a time when the BJP cadres are asking their leaders to sever ties with the SAD, Sampla said he, along with another union minister from the state, SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, would jointly work for the welfare of the state.
“I will also meet chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and discuss issues that concern the state,” he said at the meet the press.
“The BJP-SAD contested the 2012 assembly polls and the 2014 parliamentary polls in alliance and I think it would continue in future too,” he said while replying to a question.
The Hoshiarpur MP said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi would prepare the report card of his government five years from now, before the 2019 general election, it would have his mention as one of the best ministers in the union cabinet.
On being asked to reply to SAD leader Sohan Singh Thandal’s comment that SCs were safe under the SAD leadership, Sampla said, “I am safe in my party, what can I say about the SAD.”
The elevation of Sampla is being seen as a move by the BJP to woo 32% scheduled caste vote bank in the state keeping in view the 2017 assembly polls, which a section of the BJP leadership has been indicating of contesting alone.
Sampla tried to do a balancing act, after newly appointed state Punjab affairs in-charge Ram Shankar Katheria, on his maiden visit to Punjab 10 day ago, had said that the BJP would go it alone in the 2017 assembly polls, intensifying a war of words between the SAD and BJP.
Earlier, Sampla reached the BJP party office, where he was welcomed by state party president Kamal Sharma, party ministers in the state and other leaders.
Sharma said the party high command had given the Punjab BJP’s grassroots leader from the Dalit community a chance to work as a union minister. “It can only happen in the BJP that a person from an ordinary background is given such an important position,” Sharma said.
Asked to reply on the issue of drug menace in Punjab, Sampla said the previous UPA government at the Centre was weak in controlling the flow of drugs from across the border and now things were changing drastically.
“There may be a difference of opinion between the two parties running the state government in coalition, but that doesn’t mean they are opposed to each other. Issues can be settled sitting across the table and I can go to anyone to resolve the matter pertaining to my state,” Sampla said.
On being asked to comment on the SYL canal issue, Sampla said it could be resolved by holding talks. He said farmers all across the country are the same and the foodgrains they produced is the nation’s property.