August 6, 2021 8:18:16 am
Faced with continued protests against its Punjab leadership on account of the farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has embarked upon a counter offensive wherein it is inducting senior leaders and cadres of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) into its fold.
For the past several weeks, BJP leadership has been wooing SAD workers and leaders at the district and state level as also the leadership from other parties like Congress and AAP. However, the maximum number of inductees into BJP in recent weeks have been from the Akali Dal, its former alliance partner. BJP’s move is part of a well thought out strategy to lessen the impact of the farmers’ ire against it by inducting such people and to show that the party does not stand isolated in Punjab.
On July 27, BJP had inducted several SAD leaders including member of its Kisan Morcha and a national awardee for progressive farming, Gurcharan Singh Mann, from Bathinda. It also inducted the vice-president of SAD in Faridkot district along with several ground level workers.
This has been followed up with a ceremony held in New Delhi Monday where five senior SAD office bearers joined the BJP in presence of national and state leadership. These include former SAD Mahila wing national general secretary Amanjot Kaur Ramoowalia, daughter of former union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, vice president of the party Chand Singh Chatha from Sangrur and senior vice president of Gurdaspur district Baljinder Singh Dakoha. Sources within Punjab BJP said that more inductions from SAD are also on the cards including those at senior levels.
“We are in touch with lot of leaders from several parties. Many have shown interest to join us. Now that they (SAD) have broken the ties with us we are free to open the gates and allow Akalis in,” said Tarun Chugh, national general secretary of the party.
Chugh said BJP intends to grow strong roots at all those places in Punjab where it may not have had a strong presence earlier because of the tie up with Akalis. “We suffered in the alliance because the Akalis always kept their interests before ours. Have you ever heard that in an alliance the post of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are with the same party and also with father and son? But we still did not want to upset the cart because we have the concept of Hindu-Sikh unity foremost in our minds,” said Chugh.
The inductions from the SAD, Congress and AAP have come at a time when BJP leadership is facing protests all across Punjab. These protests have also spread to neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan where vehicles of BJP leaders have been attacked by protesting farmers and the clothes of Rajasthan party chief were torn off.
While BJP may have managed to attract Akali leadership to join its party, the infighting within the Punjab unit is not conducive to its dreams of contesting on all 117 Assembly seats in the 2022 polls.
While former minister Anil Joshi has been expelled from the party for six years for speaking out openly against the state leadership, there are many other leaders waiting in the wings to quit. Sources say that several BJP leaders from Doaba and Malwa have been in touch with Congress and AAP to switch camps as they do not foresee a solution to the farmers’ protest and do not fancy their electoral chances within the party.
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