In a surprise climbdown, the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has agreed to continue with the existing seat-sharing formula for the upcoming local bodies’ polls, which it is contesting in alliance with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Sources in the BJP said the party had not only succumbed to Akali pressure in view of the Delhi polls but also made it clear that it was in no mood to sever ties with the SAD.
State BJP chief Kamal Sharma confirmed the development. However, he said both parties had decided to make minor adjustments in the seat-sharing as per local needs of the alliance.
The formula suits both parties for the six municipal corporations that are going to the polls -- Bathinda, Mohali, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara, Moga and Pathankot. In Hoshiarpur, Phagwara and Pathankot, the BJP would continue to have the major share (about 70% of the seats) and the mayoral post, with the seat-sharing percentage being the same as it was when these towns had the status of municipal council.
In Moga, Mohali and Bathinda, the SAD would retain the larger share (about 70% of the seats) as well as the mayor’s post if the alliance wins the polls.
Earlier, the BJP was desperate to get more seats especially in Bathinda and Moga the two main cities of politically important Malwa region on the demand of local leaders. “What is the need to expand membership when the party is not going to utilise it,” a ground-level party worker said.
But in Municipal Councils that are maximum ruled by SAD, the BJP strategy of adopting old formula is seen as the suicidal step especially as the party is set to lose the chance to expand its base in semi-urban areas.
With party crossing its membership drive to over 12 lakh, maximum in Punjab ever, its move to “give up” before SAD has come as a shock for rank and file of the BJP.
Sources said the state unit adopted for the old formula after meeting of SAD-BJP leaders including chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and state BJP chief Kamal Sharma in New Delhi a few days ago in the presence of a senior BJP leader from Delhi.
“It’s like consuming cold and hot things at the same. What was the need to create hype in the party that we are not liking Akalis anymore..? First declaring the so called war against drugs without even initiating it and now, towing the SAD line on seat sharing, this has left the worker red faced. This is like playing with the emotions of the workers. The party has only lost its credibility by adopting such dubious techniques,” rued a senior leader from Hoshiarpur district.
Meanwhile, a state unit office-bearer accused the party high command of creating an embarrassing situation for the party in Punjab.
“First the high command signaled us to disassociate us from BJP and now they are asking us to hug same Akalis. Everybody in the party is confused with such strategies,” admitted a senior leader.