Aiming to increase it footprint in Punjab, the BJP leadership on Saturday sought the views of its state leaders on continuing the alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal, its big brother in the northern state that goes to the polls in February next year. State leaders have authorised BJP chief Amit Shah to take the final call.
Shah met Punjab core group leaders here at the residence of finance minister Arun Jaitley and sought feedback from each of the nearly dozen leaders who attended the meeting. The interaction lasted for more than two hours.
“Every Punjab leader gave a frank opinion about whether or not to continue the alliance. The general sense was that BJP is under-represented and is not given its due,” a BJP functionary at the meeting told Hindustan Times.
Under the present arrangement, the BJP fields candidates in just 23 of the 117 seats, leaving the rest for the Akali Dal. The Punjab unit leaders insisted that the Akalis were facing anti-incumbency and the BJP might have to pay a price.
“Some felt that the BJP should break away, some insisted that the alliance should continue but the seat-sharing should be renegotiated,” another leader present at the meeting said.
Punjab goes to the polls next year and the BJP is faced with increasing challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party, which won four Lok Sabha seats in 2014, in its stronghold urban pockets.
SHAH SOUGHT FEEDBACK
“Shah did not express his views. He just sought our feedback and will take the final call. Whatever decision has to be taken should be taken at the earliest,” a Punjab leader added.
A source said ministers complained that they were not taken on board on matters concerning their department and officers were posted without consultation.
The BJP central leadership is also understood to be in favour of increasing its share, but not very much inclined at snapping ties. “Our strength in Punjab has increased, but we have limited presence in the rural pockets,” a central office-bearer said, suggesting the party would be happy if it could extract 40-45 seats in the current alliance.