August 20, 2021 7:38:41 am
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) central leadership Thursday summoned its Punjab unit president Ashwani Sharma and other senior office bearers to New Delhi and is learnt to have expressed unhappiness over the manner in which several party leaders in the poll-bound state have quit to join other parties.
There has been considerable unrest within the Punjab BJP unit and several known faces are all set to jump ship to party’s former ally Shiromani Akali Dal. While former minister, Anil Joshi, who was recently expelled from the BJP for six years for anti-party activities, has already made it clear that he join SAD with scores of his supporters, a two-term former MLA from Ferozepur, Sukhpal Singh Nannu, quit the party Thursday citing BJPs poor handling of the farmers’ agitation.
At least six BJP leaders from Punjab are reportedly joining SAD along with Joshi. Throughout the day, there were reports of many other senior leaders quitting the party, including two-time former MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) KD Bhandari. However, speaking to The Indian Express, Bhandari claimed that there was no truth in such reports. “I have been a member of the party for 40 years. Yes, we are very sad that Joshi is leaving us. I have been friends with him for many years. But my political opponents are spreading rumours about my leaving the BJP and this is not true,” he said.
Sources in the BJP in New Delhi said that the continuing exodus of leaders from the party has caused concern among the central leadership especially since there have been constant claims that the saffron party will fight on all 117 constituencies in Punjab in the 2022 Assembly polls. “If all our leaders start quitting the party, where are we going to find candidates for the assembly polls? This is extremely worrying because such large scale exodus affects the morale of the cadre on ground,” said a senior leader who did not want to be identified.
It is also learnt that there are some widespread changes to be brought into the party’s organisational structure in Punjab. There were also reports that organisation secretary Dinesh Sharna was being removed as party cadre was unhappy. However, party national general secretary Tarun Chugh refuted these reports.
“No one is being removed. State president Ashwani Sharma and organisation secretary Dinesh Sharma will continue on their respective posts. The meeting in Delhi was called today by Dushyant Gautam, the state in-charge, on other issues. It is not understood from where all this talk is emanating from. We are all gearing up for elections and apart from Anil Joshi no name worth mentioning is joining the Akali Dal,” Chugh said.
State general secretaries Jeevan Gupta and Subhash Sharma said that a meeting was held by Dushyant Gautam with six office bearers of Punjab unit led by Ashwani Sharma and that the discussion veered around strategy for the Assembly polls. The co-incharge of state, Dr Narinder Singh, was also present.
Both said that a delegation of state BJP leaders also met Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and submitted a memorandum seeking safety of the Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The issue of vanadalism of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore was also taken up with her, they said.
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