The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal – allies in Punjab – seem to be readying for a bitter battle over drug menace, a precursor to the BJP’s attempt to expand its base ahead of the 2017 elections.
BJP chief Amit Shah is scheduled to visit Amritsar on January 22 to take stock of progress in the party’s membership drive for Punjab and is likely to launch a campaign against drugs by the party’s youth wing, a move that has already made SAD jittery.
SAD, which leads the alliance, is already upset that its senior minister Bikram Singh Majithia was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate.
The BJP is wary of the fact that drug menace has turned out to be a bigger issue than anticipated and may influence the outcome of the 2017 polls.
The BJP contested just 24 out of 117 assembly seats, leaving the rest for SAD. BJP sources claim Shah wants to divide the seats equally between both parties.
However, battle lines seem to be drawn.
On Monday, the Punjab government came out with an advertisement claiming it has been dealing with drug menace effectively.
“Some vested interests are falsely branding the food bowl of India as the drug bowl of India,” the advertisement says, adding “Punjab is No 1 in the fight against drugs in 2013”.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, also Punjab’s deputy CM, too sought to turn the tables on the BJP saying states ruled by it were not ready to stop cultivation of narcotics though Punjab was willing to compensate them.