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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

On campaign trail, senior Punjab BJP leaders face angry protests

State Chief, ex-Union Minister forced to cancel events. BJP says rival parties behind protests, accuses state police of not doing its job.

Written by Divya Goyal , Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar, Ludhiana |
February 9, 2021 10:44:29 am
AShwani KumarBJP state unit president Ashwani Sharma (center) at a party meeting for the municipal corporation elections in Ludhiana on Monday. Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh

Two senior Punjab BJP leaders – state unit president Ashwani Sharma and former Union minister Vijay Sampla faced stiff opposition from protesting farmers while on campaign trail for the upcoming local body polls. While Sampla’s cavalcade ran into protests in Moga, Ashwani Sharma faced farmers’ ire while campaigning in Nawanshahr. Both leaders had to cancel their multiple campaign events to avoid further trouble even as BJP alleged that they were being denied safe space to campaign for the upcoming polls.

State BJP president Ashwani Sharma had to cancel his visit to Nawanshahr due to farmers’ protest. Local BJP leaders alleged that they had to stay cooped up for seven hours at the meeting venue due to huge protest by the farmers backed by the local political leaders. These leaders further alleged that police did not stop protesters when they were smashing the flex boards, tearing posters of the BJP candidates at the meeting venue as well in their respective wards.

The protestors, however, alleged that police resorted to lathicharge on them while they were protesting peacefully.

BJP’s Nawanshahr district president Poonam Manik said that their state president was to meet candidates as well as the local leaders to boost them ahead of the local body elections on February 14, but he had to cancel the visit due to the aggressive attitude of the protestors.
“We are being deprived our right to campaign at such a crucial time when the elections are six-day away from today,” said Manik, adding that it was the police and district administration’s failure.

Protestors alleged that police resorted to lathicharge against them. Tarsem Peter, president of Pendu Mazdoor Union, said that four activists, including Istri Jagriti Manch state president Gurbakhash Kaur, Jamoori Adhikar Sabha’s Buta Singh, and other sustained injuries during police action.

In Kapurthala, the state chief was supposed to hold a meeting in the evening but protestors reached at the venue before Sharma’s arrival. Sharma had to cancel his visit here too.

Kapurthala BJP leaders alleged that Congress party was behind these protests.

In Moga, Sampla’s cavalcade was gheraoed by protesting farmers

Moga BJP leaders alleged that one of their vehicle was vandalised and damaged with lathis by protesting farmers and Sampla had to cancel at least three of his scheduled meetings after the protest intensified and police had to intervene.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sampla claimed that those who were protesting were not farmers but “hooligans of Congress and Communist parties in farmers’ disguise”. On the other hand, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) claimed responsibility of gheraoing Sampla’s cavalcade and protesting on the spot. The union said that they will continue to target BJP leaders till the three farm laws are not rolled back by the government.

Dramatic scenes played out at Moga Improvement Trust Market where Sampla and other BJP leaders had reached to address a press conference. Farmers started raising slogans of ‘Modi Sarkaar Murdabad’ outside the venue and soon there were retaliatory slogans of ‘Modi Zindabad’ by BJP workers. As Sampla’s vehicle started to leave for his next meeting’s venue in Ramganj Mandi, the protesters did not let the vehicle move, forcing police to intervene. While Sampla’s vehicle managed to leave the spot, another BJP vehicle was allegedly vandalised by the protesters and the party had to cancel the scheduled poll meetings.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sampla, BJP’s incharge for Moga MC polls, said: “Ye kisan nahi hain, kisano ki aad mein Congress aur Communist ke gunde hain (These are not farmers but hooligans of Congress and communist parties in their disguise). Whatever is beneficial for farmers of this country, is already being done by central government headed by PM Narendra Modi. These protests against BJP leaders across Punjab are being manufactured by Congress workers because they are seeing their defeat in coming local polls. I conducted two meetings today in Moga and response from the voters is excellent on the ground. Election Commission and police are acting as mute spectators even as BJP candidates are being threatened to withdraw their nomination papers. Today in Moga, a handful of protesters managed to stop our vehicles despite heavy police presence. This clearly shows police and administration are hand in glove with them and it is with the help of ruling Congress in Punjab that these protests against BJP are being organised.”

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, state general secretary, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), said: “Since this agitation began, Modi and his party colleagues are saying that it is not the farmers but opposition party workers from Congress and AAP who are protesting against them. But the fact is that our union activists who opposed Sampla’s visit today in Moga. We will protest against them wherever they will go. They can call us gundas or whatever they want to, but protests against BJP leaders will not stop till three farm laws aren’t rolled back. Today, we did not let even a single Congress worker come near our protest site in Moga, nor they will be allowed in future. Tomorrow even if Modi comes to Punjab, we will be there to oppose his visit too.”

Vinay Sharma, BJP’s Moga district president said that it has been nearly hundred days now and protesters aren’t lifting dharna outside his house in old city area of Moga.

“Now it is BJP versus all other political parties because they are simply scared of our performance in Punjab. Today some of our workers had come from Delhi and protesters vandalised their Innova vehicle by raining lathis on its windshield. We had to cancel at least three of Sampla ji’s poll meetings today because police claimed it was unsafe for him to proceed with the meetings. Even police is siding with these Congress-sponsored protesters who are protesting in disguise of farmers. We had to field candidates from all 50 wards of Moga Municipal Corporation, but our candidates were threatened and forced to withdraw their nominations. Now, we are contesting on 29 seats from Moga,” said Sharma.

Sunil Garg, advocate and BJP coordinator for Moga MC polls, said: “Congress and SAD are now working together to stop BJP from winning in Punjab. They are working collectively to dishearten BJP candidates because both these rival parties can see that how fast our graph is going up in Punjab even after breaking the alliance with SAD. Nomination papers of our candidates have been rejected illegally. Sampla ji conducted two meetings in Moga today and response was very good. Suddenly, protesters appeared outside venue of his press conferences and started raising slogans. Police supported them and some hooligans also damaged our vehicle. Police said it was unsafe for him to proceed for next meeting in Ramganj and he had to cancel it. However, later our sources told us that there was no issue on the ground and there were no protesters in Ramganj. It is all being done by Congress to stop our campaign for MC polls.”

Garg added: “Campaign posters of a woman candidate of the BJP were torn and blackened. Congress and SAD workers are doing such cheap acts and using the name of farmers. No farmer can do such act. It is democratic right of every farmer and every citizen of this country to protest but it is no one’s right to stop a political party from participating in an election process. How can you call such elections fair when you are not even allowing a national party to file their nominations? Our candidates are being threatened, but police and administration are keeping mum. Is this the democratic government that Captain Amarinder Singh is running?”

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