Jaitley shares stage with Akalis, boosts BJP morale

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 15, 2015 09:33 IST
Parkash Singh Badal and Arun Jaitley (centre) at the 108th Annual Convocation of Khalsa college, Amritsar (HT Photos)

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley's visit to Amritsar for a rally on Tuesday held political significance for the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, particularly when ties between the two parties hit a rough patch since his defeat to Congress candidate Captain Amarinder Singh in the Lok Sabha elections last year.

While the saffron party won the general election, it fared below expectations in Punjab and worse Jaitley lost Amritsar to Amarinder by more than one lakh votes.

This led to a strain in ties with the Akali leadership, who had persuaded the BJP high command to bring in Jaitley as the parliamentary poll candidate over cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. It didn't matter that Sidhu had represented Amritsar in Parliament for three consecutive terms. The Akalis didn't realise that the move could boomerang with Amarinder entering the fray.

Even when Jaitley's poll campaign was on, the Akalis announced that Punjab would get trucks load of money from the Centre as the BJP was tipped to win. The BJP won but Jaitley lost. The Akali government's hopes of getting money from the Centre were also dashed.

After the defeat, a committee led by a senior BJP leader from Punjab, Balramji Dass Tandon, who is now the governor of Chhattisgarh, found fault with the Akalis. The committee even suggested "course correction" for the coalition government.

On the eve of Jaitley's visit to Amritsar, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal may have announced that the SAD-BJP relations were like that of a husband and wife, but there has been no reaction from the spouse so far.

Senior BJP leaders may still be mum about contesting the 2017 Punjab elections , but the party's new brigade has demanded it break the alliance and contest on its own. Either way, Jaitley's visit to Amritsar has lifted the Punjab BJP's morale. How it impacts the Akalis will be a story time will tell.

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