The BJP and Akali Dal will remain friends. The BJP leadership has shrugged off suggestions from local leaders to break away, but remains open to renegotiating later the terms of engagement.
Party president Amit Shah had a meeting with Punjab BJP leaders on Saturday to discuss alliance future.
“We do not see a split happening. Sailing together is the best option,” said a BJP functionary, who is part of the deliberations.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal met finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday and Shah on Tuesday to discuss future course of action.
A leader present in the Saturday meeting said the central leadership shared with Punjab unit some figures of 2014 Lok Sabha elections that suggested that while Akalis were able to hold fort, NDA candidates performed poorly in BJP’s pockets.
Two critical reasons seem to be holding the BJP back from any adventurism in Punjab that will go to the polls next year. The party has grown in Punjab over the last decade, but is not big enough to test electoral waters on its own.
Its presence is limited to urban pockets of Punjab and has never fought election in Jat-dominated rural areas that are held by Akalis under seat sharing agreement.
Unlike Maharashtra, where it broke ranks with Shiv Sena in 2014 assembly election, the BJP faces anti incumbency in Punjab. It does not see the non-Jat, non-Sikh votes consolidating in its favour --- as it happened in Haryana --- in the assembly polls next year.
“We do not have the strength of contesting all 117 seats. We cannot afford to be seen as a ‘non-serious’ player by fielding just 50-odd candidates in urban pockets,” a BJP office- bearer said.
Snapping ties, BJP leadership is apprehensive, might prompt Akalis to return to hardline politics to protect its base. Such a situation might revive radical elements in Punjab, a state bordering Pakistan. “The worst case scenario could be a defeat. But, elections happen after every five years. We can wait for power, but not risk national interest,” the party functionary said.
BJP feels the best case for it is to renegotiate the old seat-sharing agreement under which it gets just 23 out of total 117 assembly seats to contest.
Amit Shah was earlier said to be interested in cricketer-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu getting a prominent role in Punjab BJP, but sources said the party leadership is doing a re-think on the issue as it would mean antagonising the Akalis by wading into “Jat politics”.
Sidelined, a sulking Sidhu has conveyed to the party leadership that he would not play any pro-active role in the 2017 polls if the party continues with an alliance with the Akalis.