Giving a jolt to the hopes of a few ministerial berth aspirants, the BJP high command for the time being has put off reshuffling of its four Punjab ministers.
Instead, the party high command and the state unit have told its ministers to be more “aggressive” and “openly and strongly oppose” the policies of the SAD, wherever necessary.
Party’s Punjab affairs in-charge Shanta Kumar told HT that there was no chance of any reshuffling of the BJP ministers in the near future. “There is no such plan as of now. The entire state rank and file has been told to work hard to have a grip on our vote bank,” Kumar said when asked if the party high command had postponed or cancelled the reshuffling plans.
A minister, on condition of anonymity, said the party affairs in-charge and state unit president Kamal Sharma, who held parleys in Jalandhar for more than three hours in the presence of a few senior leaders, had told its ministers to work actively and tour the entire state.
Earlier also, there were speculations of a reshuffle in the BJP ministers after the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.
Insiders in the party and sources close to Shanta said the proposal put forward by the state unit president and the state party in-charge to the BJP high command included postponing the reshuffling till December. The elections to a large number of municipal councils across the state and municipal corporations in Pathankot, Moga, Phagwara, SAS Nagar and Bathinda will be held before December and the BJP has high stakes involved.
The matter of reshuffling was on hold for the past three months after all ministers had reportedly submitted their resignation to Shanta Kumar in Chandigarh on June 24.
Factionalism behind it
Factionalism in the state unit of the party is the main reason behind the delay in the reshuffling. Actually, the entire group that is against Kamal Sharma is divided into other groups with senior leaders like Rajya Sabha MP Avinash Rai Khanna, Manoranjan Kalia and Ashwani Sharma having their own preferences.
The anti-Kamal Sharma factions do not enjoy good relations with one another. Ashwani is supported by an RSS faction led by BJP state organisation secretary Ajay Jamwal, whereas Kalia had a pro-worker approach during his previous stint as minister.
With the Kamal Sharma group suddenly adopting an aggressive posture against its alliance partner SAD over the issues of drug addiction and illegal mining, the public perception in the state that the saffron party was going soft on the SAD had changed overnight.
Leaders in race
Besides Jalandhar Central MLA Manoranjan Kalia and Pathankot MLA Ashwani Sharma, those eyeing the cabinet berth are Phagwara MLA Som Parkash and Jalandhar North MLA KD Bhandari. While Kalia and Sharma have their own groups, Parkash and Bhandari are Kamal Sharma loyalists.