A section of leaders in the core group of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP’s) Punjab unit has demanded a change in guard by replacing the incumbent president Kamal Sharma.
Most of the core unit members on the other hand asked the BJP’s national leadership to grant Sharma extension, but suggested that he be more proactive in raising party’s concerns with alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), particularly after indications that the two parties will be contesting the 2017 elections in a coalition.
The Punjab BJP’s 15-member core group, which met in New Delhi late on Tuesday evening, comprises BJP ministers in the Punjab cabinet, officer bearers of the party’s state unit and former state presidents. The meeting was earlier scheduled for Wednesday, but had to be pre-poned by a day keeping in view the post-marriage party of senior BJP leader and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s daughter, Sonali.
During the meeting, national general secretary Ram Lal and Punjab affairs in-charge Prabhat Jha held a one-to-one meeting with all the core group members.
While Punjab cabinet ministers Madan Mohan Mittal and Bhagat Chunni Lal, who are seen as supporters of Kamal Sharma, played neutral and skipped the meeting, Sharma’s opponents — former state presidents Avinash Rai Khanna, who is now a Rajya Sabha MP, Ashwani Sharma, who is an MLA from Pathankot, and Manoranjan Kalia, a former state minister —put forward their cases for the party’s top state post. All three have been opposing Sharma from time to time.
The state leaders who vehemently expressed their support for Sharma include cabinet minister Anil Joshi, former minister Tikshan Sud, state general secretaries Rakesh Rathore and Jagtar Saini, and national secretary Tarun Chugh. Sharma has been in the midst of a string of controversies in the recent past, over issues brought to fore by his opponents. The controversies, however, died down due to the religio-political turmoil in Punjab in the recent months.
Sources said after listening to the Punjab unit leaders, the national leadership asked them to hold elections in mandals and districts by December 25 so as to prepare ground for electing the state president.
NO TALK ON BREAKING ALLIANCE
Although a section of state BJP leaders has, during past interactions with the national leadership, demanded snapping of ties with SAD and contesting the 2017 polls independently, sources said this time around it was silent on the issue.
Sources said the national leadership also asked the state leaders for their views on the current political developments in Punjab, which include the emergence of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and also Capt Amarinder Singh’s appointment as the state Congress chief. They added that the state unit members hinted to the national leaders that they will be launching huge development plans in Punjab to counter the Congress and the AAP to clinch the 2017 polls.