In a last-minute decision, the BJP on Friday dropped the idea of reshuffling its ministers in the Punjab cabinet on the plea that “it’s of no use at this stage”.
The party was gearing up for it for the past week in the name of “rejuvenation” and different permutations and combinations were being worked out; but then it suddenly got wary of the plan and decided not to implement it.
A communication to this effect reportedly came from the party high command in Delhi on Friday morning, saying the exercise at this stage would have no major gain for the party and would send a wrong signal to the electorate, with just nine months left for the 2017 assembly polls.
“We felt the new faces who would be inducted as ministers would not be able to perform well, and it would not help in image-makeover of those pulled out,” Punjab party affairs incharge Prabhat Jha told HT. “Moreover, it’s time to be in the constituencies and not sitting in offices,” said a minister sitting beside him.
A closed-door meeting was held at the forest complex in SAS Nagar away from public gaze, where Jha, state party unit president Vijay Sampla, organisation general secretary Dinesh Kumar and ministers Bhagat Chunni Lal, Madan Mohan Mittal and Anil Joshi pondered over the issue for more than two hours.
The new faces that the party intended to bring into the cabinet were also reportedly reluctant to accept the responsibility at a time when the coalition government is facing anti-incumbency and its image is at a low.
Instead of bringing in new faces, the BJP leadership asked the incumbents “to enthuse and establish contact with the beleaguered party cadres”, directing them to hold joint weekly meetings on Wednesdays in the party office in Chandigarh and hear workers’ concerns. The ministers were also asked to establish close contact with the coalition partner, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), to iron out misunderstandings.
Sampla told HT that the party needed better coordination with workers; to which a minister added that workers’ respect needed to be restored as they were feeling demoralised. Sampla said the state unit is building a strategy to restore confidence in workers for which first milestone is beginning of mandal-level meetings with party workers from May 25. The party, according to him, is also focusing to make yoga day programme in Chandigarh on June 21 to be attended by PM Narendra Modi a big success.
The party leaders said there was a need to work out party’s activities keeping in view the assembly polls. Accepting that the AAP is an early starter, Sampla termed the party as “headless” and “thoughtless”.
Four weak seats
Jha said the BJP felt that the party is weak on four assembly seats out of 23 in its share in the coalition arrangement. He said that in the coming days the BJP would take up swapping of assembly seats with the SAD. “We would like the SAD to contest on seats on which our candidates are weak and vice-versa,” Jha said. He refused to name these seats.
Mittal aired grievances
Industries and commerce minister Madan Mohan Mittal told HT that he had aired his grievances before the party high command that the “chief secretary is not cooperating and is interfering in the functioning of the technical education department” and he had left it to them to decide. “We have heard his (Mittal’s) concern and will take it up at the appropriate level,” Sampla said.