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Edged out of Punjab political scene, BJP warm to Capt offer: ‘nationalists are not untouchables for us’

BJP general secretary and party in-charge of Punjab affairs Dushyant Gautam said Amarinder is moving away from the dynasty politics and towards nationalism.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: October 21, 2021 11:31:07 am
Amarinder singh, Punjab politics, Amarinder singh BJP, BJP amarinder, Congress, punjab politics, BJP support Amarinder, Indian ExpressAmarinder will not hug the Pakistan army chief to be a “hero” in the Pakistani media, the BJP leader said in a swipe at Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File)

Facing stiff opposition from farmers in Punjab, the BJP Wednesday reciprocated warmly to former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s proposal for a alliance in the 2022 state assembly polls saying it is open to joining hands with those who put the national interest first.

BJP general secretary and party in-charge of Punjab affairs Dushyant Gautam said Amarinder is moving away from the dynasty politics and towards nationalism. “Our main agenda is nationalism and keeping the nation first. All those parties who want to form alliances with us on this agenda are welcome,” he said.

“….He (Amarinder Singh) was a soldier. He knows about the threats to the country and how to secure it is. He is patriotic. And whenever it was a matter of national security and security at the borders, we have appreciated his stand,” Gautam said, adding that nationalists are not “untouchables” to the BJP.

Amarinder will not hug the Pakistan army chief to be a “hero” in the Pakistani media, the BJP leader said in a swipe at Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was seen instrumental in Amarinder’s ouster as Punjab CM and fallout with the party.

Gautam’s comments came a day after Amarinder Singh said he will soon launch his political party and is hopeful of a seat arrangement with the BJP if the farmers’ issue is resolved in their interest.

On his condition of resolving farmers’ issue, Gautam leader said Amarinder did not talk about ending the farmers’ agitation. “He talked about farmers’ issues. We are committed to it and are working for the welfare of farmers. When the time comes, both will sit together and discuss farmers’ issues,” Gautam said, adding as far as the agitation is concerned, it is politically motivated.

State party unit general secretary Dr Subash Sharma, meanwhile, said efforts to resume dialogue with protesting farmer unions had always been on. Harjeet Singh Grewal, another state BJP leader, too added, “Efforts never stopped. They are always on in one way or the other”.

The BJP is facing stiff protest from farmers, especially in rural areas. During urban local bodies polls held in February this year, most of their candidates were not even allowed to campaign. The party, which had been contesting polls in Punjab in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal since 1992 before latter decided to walk out over the farm laws, has only two members in the 117-strong Vidhan Sabha. As part of alliance, the SAD used to contest on 94 seats and the BJP on 23. This time BJP has announced to contest all seats.

Beginning with a high of 16.5 per cent in 1992, the BJP’s voteshare in Punjab shrinked to 5.4 per cent in 2017 assembly polls. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it had bagged 9.63 per cent of the total votes polled, which was an improvement over 8.7 per cent in 2014. It had also won two – Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur – of the three Lok Sabha seats it contested in 2019. All SAD, which contested on the remaining 10 seats, also won two.

After resigning as CM, Amarinder had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Joint secretary, Punjab BJP, Jeewan Gupta, said it was up to the party’s central leadership to take a call on joining hands with Amarinder, “but, I want to say that he is a nationalist leader” and he has his concerns for security of the nation. “If rashtrawadi (nationalist) forces work together, it will give a good message to Punjab. The state will be made corruption free and terror free,” Gupta said.

Asked if the state unit of BJP was making efforts to get the farmers to end their agitation, party’s organisational secretary Dinesh Kumar said, “Punjab BJP is not making any efforts. Proposal to the unions had been sent by government long back and it stands even today. It is Amarinder’s individual statement. Let’s see what he does next. It needs to be seen as who all are sitting at Tikri and Singhu (protest sites) now… many unions are surviving on this agitation. When laws have not been implemented, why this agitation is continuing, which forces are behind this? It needs to be investigated. Amarinder is a nationalist leader, this is all I can say”.

BJP leaders, however, added that alliance with Amarinder can send good signal to people across the state.

Meanwhile experts said the development, if it takes place, will give BJP some edge in the next year’s Assembly polls. “If Amarinder can get support and votes of farmers, it will be a great game changer,” said a BJP leader.

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