3.5 lakh Yadav voters, followed by nearly 2.5 lakh Shakya, 1.5 lakh Lodhi and around 1 lakh Thakur voters.
Stands up to Akali Dal, hunts replacements for ‘weak’ ministers
Chandigarh: A bolder BJP has set about asserting itself in Punjab, reinventing its equations with senior partner the SAD by questioning government decisions it holds responsible for a poll performance that fell below expectations, and looking at replacements for BJP ministers who it feels haven’t been assertive enough despite heading the departments that took those decisions.
“The party will not compromise on any issue related to public welfare in the future,” state BJP chief Kamal Sharma said. Shanta Kumar, in charge of BJP affairs in Punjab, met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Wednesday and the two parties decided to constitute a six-member committee to undo the “unpopular decisions” by the alliance that they feel led to their poor performance — six seats including two for the BJP. “The results in Punjab are entirely different from the results in the rest of India, and we admit it is all our fault,” said Shanta Kumar.
The shift in the balance comes after the elections put the BJP in a position of immense power at the Centre, though in Punjab itself the BJP contested only three of 13 seats, losing Amritsar. The two victories marked a gain of one seat since 2009 but the BJP’s vote share fell from 10.1 per cent to 8.7 — still a recovery after the 7.2 per cent of the 2012 assembly polls.
The party is set to replace at least two, if not three, of its four ministers because they are seen as “weak” and struggling to hold their own against the SAD’s dominance. Of the ministers, Madan Mohan Mittal holds industries, Anil Joshi local bodies, Chunni Lal Bhagat forest, wildlife and labour, and Surjit Kumar Jiyani health. These portfolios themselves are the result of a reshuffle in September 2013, and then too performance had been cited as the reason.
Joshi is also the BJP MLA from Amritsar. After Arun Jaitley’s defeat, Joshi had, in fact, offered to resign.
An internal Lok Sabha poll analysis report, prepared by BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon and submitted to Shanta Kumar Wednesday, has found that the party alienated the urban voter because of property tax and a hike in the cost of construction material (sand and gravel). Both these issues were under departments held by BJP ministers.
The mining department, which regulated the extraction of construction material from various mines, is with industries, which was held by Joshi from March 2012 until September 2013 before it was given to Mittal.
The decision to impose property tax was taken by the department of local government, held by Bhagat until the reshuffle.
A BJP MLA said, “BJP leaders in positions of power and those interacting with the chief minister and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal also failed to get the grievances of the trader community redressed. Traders had asked us to expedite the payment of VAT continued…