Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday set up a six-member ‘coordination’ committee, comprising three leaders each from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in an effort to “further streamline day-to-day functioning and cooperation between the alliance partners.”
Its members are SAD senior vice-president Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and general secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder, besides BJP leaders Ashwani Sharma (Pathankot MLA), Narottam Dev Ratti and Rajinder Bhandari.
However, the state BJP has an issue with the committee’s name and purpose. “I do not why it is called a coordination panel. It is a committee for course correction of the state government,” said Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma, adding that the committee would take corrective steps on issues pertaining to all sections of society. According to him, SAD-BJP coordination committees already exist at the state and district levels.
Another BJP leader ‘clarified’ that the CM’s office had incorrectly mentioned the new panel as a coordination committee, adding that the latter was already in place.
The committee has been constituted seven weeks after top BJP leaders met Badal and told him that the government functioning needed a serious course correction.
As decided at the June 25 meeting of top BJP leaders with Badal, the committee would resolve issues highlighted in the report by a panel led by senior BJP leader Balramji Das Tandon. The panel had been formed to pinpoint the reasons for the coalition’s below-par performance in this year’s Lok Sabha polls. The committee would work for three months, after which it would stand dissolved.
Sources said the BJP blamed the SAD for the delay in formation of the committee. “Similar committees will be set up at all district headquarters shortly for enhanced coordination at the grassroots level,” announced SAD general secretary Harcharan Bains.
“Our worry is how the Aam Aadmi Party got four seats in Punjab and a 24% vote share. It did not get such a response anywhere else in the country,” BJP MP and Punjab affairs incharge Shanta Kumar had said on June 25, when it was decided to form a joint panel.
In its report, the Tandon committee named the following issues for the SAD-BJP’s poor performance: drug menace; lack of clarity on property tax; traders and industrialists feeling ignored because of special favours to farmers and rural people; skyrocketing prices of sand and gravel; and the Akali halqa in-charge system.
‘Overdependence’ on the bureaucracy; lack of contact with the public; no focus on basic amenities; some ‘counter-productive’ development schemes launched by the government; and too many changes in the tax system; were also reported by the committee as the reasons that led to the disappointing poll show.
Tandon cannot play any role in the state government’s course correction, as recommended by him in the report, as he has taken charge as the Chhattisgarh governor.