Modi cold-shoulders Badal on Khattar's day
The frost in ties between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was visible during the swearing-in ceremony of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar at Panchkula on Sunday.
Though seated in the front row on the dais, near BJP president Amit Shah, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had no interaction with him after they had exchanged pleasantries.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi who walked in minutes before the ceremony failed to take note of Badal, who was sitting at an arm's length. Many top BJP leaders, including its chief ministers, union ministers and veterans such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi did greet Badal warmly, but he was isolated largely by the new BJP leadership of Shah and Modi.
Badal, who was in a formal blue suit, did not arrive with his deputy and son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is learnt to have "boycotted" the ceremony over a delayed invite. Since the Lok Sabha election results, the saffron party has been flexing its muscles in Punjab, where it has been playing second fiddle, so far, in the alliance with the SAD.
The deteriorating relations seemed to reach a flashpoint in the Haryana assembly elections, when Badal went all out in support of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) of the Chautalas, BJP's main opponents in the state. The voices of dissent against the Badals were clear within the Haryana BJP, as it was locked in a direct contest with the INLD for several assembly seats.
Both Modi and Shah, and even union finance minister Arun Jaitley whom the Badals had wooed to contest from Amritsar only to see him lose have, so far, not given a sympathetic ear to the SAD. They gave the Punjab CM's daughter-in-law, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, an unimportant ministerial berth and denied his state both financial bailout and drought and flood relief recently.