BJP warns Punjab coalition partner
The BJP is worried about the standoff between the Dera Sauch Sauda and the Akalis that may affect the future of the coalition in Punjab of which it is a key partner.
It has cautioned Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal against letting the situation deteriorate any further and asked him to act fast to ensure peace and restore order.
A day after Punjab BJP unit warned of "hard decisions" in the case the alliance government failed to maintain law and order and safeguard the life and property of the citizens, central party chief Rajnath Singh asked Badal to maintain peace "at any cost".
Rajnath spoke to Badal on Monday evening – thrice since trouble began in Punjab.
The Sikh leaders have alleged that the Dera leader insulted their religion by appearing in an advertisement dressed as one of their most revered leaders.
Dera leader Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh has denied trying to look like Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of Sikhism, in the advertisement. The bandh call followed the stand-off between the Dera and the highest Sikh temporal seat, Akal Takht, which has given ultimatum to the state government to wind up Gurmeet's deras in Punjab by May 27.
"I have spoken to Badal on phone and told him that the state should be peaceful at any cost," Rajnath Singh told a news conference. "We are very keen that no untoward incident occurs in the state during the bandh and every measure should be taken to contain violence, if any."
In the February elections, the BJP made major gains in Punjab. It raised its tally from two MLAs in the previous Assembly to 19, making it a major political force to reckon with. The Akali Dal got 48 – just four more than the Congress but its alliance with the BJP brought it to power. The BJP's concern is that its new-found base among the rural Sikhs and the traditional support among the urban Hindus is not damaged by the stand-off between the Akalis and the Dera, which has influence among the Hindus and Dalit Sikhs.
The BJP had initially joined the Akalis in blaming the Congress and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for creating trouble for the three-month coalition.
Though the BJP still shared Badal's perception that the trouble was engineered by political rivals, the first priority at this moment is to control the situation and establish peace and tranquility in the state, Rajnath told Badal. Rajnath wanted talks to be held between the Dera and the Sikh leaders.
A Punjab BJP leader said, "The party is not satisfied with the methods adopted by the government to handle the situation so far."
On Monday, the Punjab BJP unit had said in a statement that "If anything goes wrong in any part of the state, the government headed by Parkash Singh Badal shall be solely responsible and answerable. BJP will not hesitate in taking hard decisions in the larger interests of the people of Punjab."
Two days ago, a statement issued by Punjab BJP Office secretary Raj Bhatia had said the party is of the firm view that, had stringent steps been taken at the very beginning, the state could have been saved from loss of precious lives and properties.
Describing the turn of events in the past four days as "unfortunate", the BJP also condemned the alleged imitation of the dress of Sikhs' Guru Gobind Singh by the head of the Dera. It said the "provocative act" was responsible for the atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the state.