The rift between alliance partners Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party came to fore again on Sunday as hundreds of Akali workers showed black flags to BJP leader and Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi in Batala.
Joshi was here to lay the foundation stone of a shelter home. The SAD workers led by city SAD chief Balbir Singh Bittu raised slogans against Joshi and the BJP. The Akali leaders alleged that they were denied submission of a memorandum to the minister.
The Akali workers also alleged that municipal council president Naresh Mahajan didn't invite SAD leaders for the ceremony, but invites were sent to the Congress leaders. Even halqa in-charge and the district SAD chief were not invited, they alleged.
The trouble started when Mahajan stopped Bittu from submitting the memorandum to Joshi. He said the minister would speak to them after laying the foundation stone. This led to a verbal spat between the duo.
Feeling insulted, Bittu questioned Joshi why the Akali leadership was not invited for the function? "Why the SAD leaders are being ignored and preference is being given to the Congress leaders? asked Bittu.
As the BJP workers tried to take Joshi away from the spot, the Akali workers started raising slogans against the minister. In retaliation, the BJP workers also raised slogans in favour of Joshi.
The police, however, averted a clash between the workers of the ruling alliance.
Talking to HT, Bittu said they wanted to meet Joshi against Mahajan's partial attitude as he was not allowing development works in the wards represented by the Akali councillors. "However, the minister refused to listen to us after which we showed him black flags and boycotted the function," said Bittu.
Mahajan said the SAD workers tried to disrupt the government function and demanded legal action against Bittu and other Akali leaders. Denying allegations, he said leaders of all political parties and representatives of non-governmental organisations were invited for the function. No special invites were sent, he added.
A group of local BJP leaders led by district BJP chief Suresh Bhatia were also not seen at the function.
Dr Sidhu slams Akali leaders
Chief parliamentary secretary Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu on Sunday accused the SAD of derailing development works in the Amritsar (East) constituency. In a statement here, Dr Sidhu said: "Akali councillors who did nothing for the people of the constituency in the past are now worried if I am going there and initiating development works."
"After getting `2 crore sanctioned for the Verka area, I had chalked out a plan and called officials of various departments to get the civic issues resolved. But some Akali leaders are worried about my popularity. SAD's district chief Upkar Sandhu visited the area with officials just to take credit," she claimed.