Union minister and new Punjab BJP president Vijay Sampla is reported to have taken a unit-overhaul plan to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who takes care of state affairs in the party.
Sampla went to Jaitley’s office on Saturday with suggestions on improving the party’s prospects in the coming Punjab elections. Sources close to Sampla said that in the half-hour meeting, the two had discussed the possibility of changing the state ministers from the BJP quota for a caste balance.
Sampla now is party’s leader in the state (will take charge on April 12); and another Dalit leader from Jalandhar, Chunni Lal Bhagat, is both state BJP legislature party leader and forest minister. “Making inroads into the Dalits heart is good but since BJP’s traditional voters in Punjab are upper-caste Hindus, a caste balance is must and changing the minister is the only way to it,” said a senior BJP legislator.
Bhagat might go
In case the ministers are changed, Bhagat (86) is set to go out, since already he is too ill to attend official meetings of the party and cabinet. Sampla, though a member of Parliament from Hoshiapur, has a house in the Jalandhar West segment represented by Bhagat. Source said the party might induct a Brahmin face in the ministry, in which case Manoranjan Kalia from Jalandhar Central and Ashwani Sharma from Pathankot were its choices. The changeover could happen in May.
Asked to confirm it, Sampla accepted that he was taking the opinion of senior leaders about the likely changes but said he couldn’t share the details with the media. “Because our stakes are high in the coming assembly elections, we have to make a few drastic changes,” he said. He was expected to meet BJP national president Amit Shah on Saturday evening.