As Ram Shankar Katheria, new man in charge of Punjab affairs in the Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP), arrived here on Tuesday, the state leadership pushed the idea of contesting the 2017 assembly elections without an alliance.
The party is in the Punjab ruling combine led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Agra parliamentarian Katheria, who replaces veteran leader Shanta Kumar as Punjab affairs in-charge in the BJP, took part in the core-committee and officer bearers' meetings here and on Wednesday will meet the office-bearers of the BJP frontal organisations.
Some senior state leaders asked the party to tread with caution, since pulling out of the alliance would be impractical in a state with a unique geo-political environment. "It is a border state, and it has also witnessed a phase of terrorism not so long ago," said a leader.
After the meeting, Katheria called on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, patron of the SAD, and only listened to his party leaders silently. The idea of going it alone in 2017 has come about when on Sunday, top BJP leader and union minister Arun Jaitley had said categorically that the alliance was unbreakable.
State BJP ministers Anil Joshi, Bhagat Chunni Lal, and Madan Mohan Mittal attended the meeting along with state party president Kamal Sharma; former state presidents Ashwani Sharma, Brij Lal Rinwa, Manoranjan Kalia, and Rajinder Bhandari; and general secretaries Tarun Chugh, Jagtar Singh Saini, and Rakesh Rathore. Tikshan Sud and organising secretary Ajay Jamwal were also present.
The leaders were unanimous on starting with an aggressive membership drive during the campaign for the civic body elections. Katheria gathered that leaders from the other parties were willing come into the BJP, if given a respectable position. A demand was raised that the Tandon Committee suggestions for course correction by the Punjab government be implemented.
On August 28, this six-member joint committee of the SAD and the BJP was formed under the leadership of Balramji Dass Tandon, who became governor of Chhattisgarh, later. It was tasked with analysing the sub-par performance of the coalition in the parliamentary elections.
The BJP leaders in the core committee were bitter that the government was not giving much attention to the recommendations. The Tandon committee concluded that the issues of drugs; lack of clarity on property tax; special favours to farmers at the cost of trade and industry; rising prices of sand and gravel; the Akali halqa in-charge system, over-dependence on bureaucracy, and too many changes in the taxation system had led to the sub-par show in the Lok Sabha elections.
BJP wants excise department
In the core-committee meeting, the BJP leaders demanded that the excise department be transferred to the party so that it could streamline the taxation system. The BJP now has local bodies; forest and wildlife, health; and industries departments.