The Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday decided to support the ‘Sadbhawna’ rallies of its ruling ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and participate in these from November 23.
It took a marathon meeting of almost all senior state BJP leaders to overcome the reluctance. The SAD hopes the rallies will help it mend the situation in the state after the Akal Takht granted pardon to Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and the radicals opposed it at their ‘Sarbat Khasla’ (Sikh congregation) on November 10.
In the first week of November, the SAD had sought the BJP support for these rallies. The state government’s public image has taken a hit and the saffron partner has not escaped the effect. Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal plans to fix it before the early-2017 assembly elections. “These rallies will help definitely in restoring public’s confidence in our government,” said BJP’s state cabinet minister Madan Mohan Mittal.
“We have heard the SAD call for peace in Punjab, and we will support our alliance partner wholeheartedly,” BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh told HT, reasoning that the BJP support was required to neutralise the effect of backing to the radicals from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The BJP leaders disagree, but the turn of events in the past more than a month has required it to do damage control, and so it needs these rallies to register its presence.
“The developments in Punjab over past month have refreshed the memories of the dark 1980s and 1990s, and everyone at Friday’s meeting was concerned over it. The Congress and the AAP have colluded with the SAD (Amritsar) and other radical outfits do disturb peace in Punjab for political gains,” said state BJP president Kamal Sharma.
“When the other political parties are joining hands, the BJP has every right to support its alliance partner,” said Mittal. The BJP, however, is still not committing to contesting the 2017 assembly elections in coalition with the Akali party. “Our national leadership will decide on the election and coalition matters,” said the state minister.