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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Punjab polls: Captain hosts Shekhawat, fuels talk of sealing alliance

Union minister's luncheon meeting with ex-CM triggers speculation that the two camps were close to finalising an alliance for the upcoming Punjab Assembly polls

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
Updated: December 8, 2021 8:51:30 am
This is Capt Amarinder's first meeting with any BJP leader after he held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah after resigning as the CM.(Twitter/capt_amarinder)

Union Minister and BJP’s Punjab election in-charge Gajendra Singh Shekhawat held a luncheon meeting with former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Tuesday, fuelling speculation that the two sides were close to finalising an alliance for the upcoming Assembly polls. The meeting comes even as Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma claimed his party was preparing to fight on all 117 seats.

Both camps were tight-lipped about the meeting. Amarinder’s aides pointed out that it was a one-on-one meeting, hinting that they discussed the contours of an alliance.

“Met with Union Minister for Jal Shakti & @BJP4India election Incharge for Punjab Gajendra Singh Shekhawat ji at my residence today. @gssjodhpur,” said Amarinder Singh in a tweet.

The former CM also shared his photograph with Shekahwat on his Twitter handle.

In his tweet, Shekhawat said, “Met with@capt_amarinder ji at his residence today. Discussed present political scenario of Punjab.”

It is learnt that the luncheon meeting was the brainchild of BJP central leadership that wanted to convey a message to former CM’s supporters that they were together. “Amarinder’s meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been pending for a long time. It was conveying a wrong message to Congress leaders in Punjab who want to join the alliance. That is why we have started the ball rolling,” a BJP leader said requesting anonymity.

Sources also said that Shekhawat held a meeting with Punjab BJP leaders and took their feedback. It is learnt that the BJP is planning to contest on 70 seats, while giving Amarinder 35 and leaving the rest for SAD (Sanyukt).

This is Amarinder’s first meeting with any BJP leader after he callled on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah after his unceremonious exit as the chief minister in September.
Later, he floated his own party, Punjab Lok Congress, to fight the elections.

Sharma refrained from making any comment on seat-sharing arrangements or an alliance between the BJP and the Punjab Lok Congress. Speaking to mediapersons before inducting some people into the BJP, Sharma insisted that his mandate was to fight elections on all 117 Assembly seats.

“As the state president of the party, as of now, my job is to prepare my party to fight on all seats. However, there are various other sections of the party, which also work towards elections and this includes the Parliamentary Board,” he said when asked about Shekhawat’s meeting with Amarinder.

Sharma said the BJP was not any one person’s party or any family’s party. “We have the central leadership, we have Parliamentary Board, state unit… We exchange views. As of now, our job is to prepare for the 117 seats,” he said.

Shah on Saturday had said the BJP was in talks with Amarinder and former Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa to forge an alliance with their parties ahead of the Punjab polls.

The former CM, too, has said on several occasions that he would tie up with the BJP. He also echoed this during the inauguration of his party’s office in Chandigarh on Monday.

When asked how the BJP could think of entering into an alliance with Amarinder when the party blames the Congress for not doing anything in four-and-a-half years of its rule when he was at the helm, Sharma said the poll promises were made in the name of the Congress and not any individual. “The person is not important. He may be the face. But the commitment is made by the party. The manifesto was released by Rahul Gandhi. If anyone has deceived the people of Punjab then it is Congress and its leadership,” he said.

Sharma also attacked Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu and CM Charanjit Singh Channi for seeking a trade corridor with Pakistan. “(Congress MP) Manish Tewari is opposing trade with Pakistan. This means there is difference of opinion within Congress. Sidhu’s Pakistan love is well known. He is more interested in hugging Pakistani leaders. Don’t he and Channi see the sacrifices that soldiers from Punjab are making every day against Pakistan when they come to their homes wrapped in Tricolour,” he asked.

Earlier, Sharma said that Punjab needed a “double engine” growth with a BJP government at the Centre as well as in the state. “We will not issue a mere manifesto. We will issue a sankalp patra (an oath) to ensure that whatever promise we make to the people of the state will be fulfilled.”

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