CONTRARY TO widespread speculation that the Punjab BJP may ‘change’ its ministers ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, no such decision was taken in the stormy party meet held here Friday, during which some party ministers vented their anguish.
The decision came only after three out of the four BJP ministers present in the meeting with the state unit president Vijay Sampla and the state unit in-charge, Prabhat Jha, vociferously protested against the ‘daily rumours’ appearing in some sections of the media that some ministers would lose their post and be replaced.
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One minister said if the party wanted it could take their resignation immediately but it should not sit quiet while they were getting humiliated day in and out in the eyes of the public. The meeting, which was called at the offices of the Forest department in Mohali, turned stormy when one minister said that he had brought his resignation in his pocket and that the party could take it right away. Sources say that Sampla and Jha were taken aback by the aggressive verbal assault launched and had tried to pacify the agitated ministers.
One minister reportedly asked the party functionaries about how they could make promises of regularising the services of some contractual employees in their department when they were not even sure if their own services were regularised. The explanation of Sampla and Jha was that the news items concerned were “just kite flying” by some in sections of the media. They were then questioned why the party did not issue denials in this regard so that the ministers being named in the reports could save some face.
Interestingly, the meeting called by the BJP did not take place in its party office in the city or in Punjab Bhawan, the normal venue for political meetings. It was held in an government office which raised eyebrows in certain circles over the propriety of holding a political discussion in a government setting. It is also learnt that the issue of Technical Education Minister, Madan Mohan Mittal, having a spat with the Chief Secretary, Sarvesh Kaushal, was also discussed where the minister briefed the party seniors over the manner in which the senior bureaucrat was ‘undermining’ his position as a minister.
The BJP ministers also raised the issue of non-cooperation of officials in the ministries run by them and complained that the same has been brought to the notice of the party leadership on several occasions yet there has been no change in the behaviour of the officials.
It was also decided in the meeting that every Wednesday a coordination meeting would be held in the party office which would be attended by the BJP ministers and the party president who would listen to the problems of the people. Speaking to media persons, Prabhat Jha said that as per the present arrangement the party would fight on the 23 seats of its quota in the alliance. But he added that as per a survey conducted by the party it had come to their notice that there were four such seats where the party was weak and that it needed to work harder there.