The BJP may go into Punjab elections in alliance with the parties of Amarinder Singh and former Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said here Saturday.
“We are talking to Captain (Amarinder Singh) saab as well as Dhindsa saab. It is possible we will have an alliance,” Shah said at the HT Summit.
While Amarinder has been talking about such an alliance, this is the first indication from the BJP side of a tie-up. Earlier the BJP refused to say anything, and in fact asserted repeatedly that it would contest all the 117 seats in the state.
At the HT Summit, Shah added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “showing a big heart”, had taken the decision on the farm legislation, “saying fine, if you think the farm laws are not in your benefit, I take them back”. He said that the farm protest as an issue was over in Punjab.
Dhindsa, the president of Akali Dal (Sanyukt), told The Sunday Express he had met Shah on Thursday, but did not confirm if there was an alliance in the making. Indicating the divide in the party over it, Akali Dal (Sanyukt) patron Ranjit Singh Brahampura called talk of any alliance “baseless”.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said there was nothing surprising in Shah’s statement. Former Congress CM Amarinder already had an unannounced alliance with the BJP, he said. “The BJP is a big zero and when anything gets multiplied with zero, it results in a zero.”
Randhawa asked Amarinder to make his position clear on who was responsible for the death of “700 farmers” during the agitation against the farm laws. “I also want to ask him if the BJP has now become a secular party.”
On Shah’s announcement regarding Amarinder, Mohd Mustafa, the ‘Chief Strategic Adviser’ to Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, said: “It will be good riddance. Bye-bye Captain.” He also added the BJP was a “hardworking party” and would end up rueing an alliance with Amarinder. “He does not work at all.”
Leader of the Opposition and AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema said they were not worried. “There is tremendous anger among the people of Punjab, particularly those connected to farming in any way.”
The BJP’s two MLAs in the 117-member Assembly said they welcomed the central leadership’s decision.
In the interview at the HT Summit, Shah also spoke at length on Kashmir and the coming Uttar Pradesh polls.
He said statehood in Kashmir will be restored only after delimitation and elections and those demanding it earlier are merely trying to create political controversy. He claimed that an atmosphere of development and law and order has been created in Kashmir. “I believe the people of Kashmir welcome this change,” he said.
Asked about the recent killing of civilians, particularly non-Muslim outsiders and Kashmiri Pandits, Shah said: “I recently saw a statement by (Farooq) Abdullah saab that Kashmir will see peace only when Article 370 is restored. Article 370 was there for 75 years, why was there no peace?… Use any dimension to assess (law and order) …include the (recent) targeted killings (of civilians), we will not reach even 10% (of earlier). This means that peace has been restored.”
Shah said the imposition of curfew and bans on Internet in the region were only to ensure safety of the local people.
On UP polls, Shah said the alliances formed by Opposition parties would not stop the BJP from a thumping majority. “Politics is not physics, it is chemistry,” he said. Shah added that the farm protests would have no impact in UP.
While assuring that the government was closely watching the new Covid variant Omicron, Shah ruled out making vaccination compulsory, saying the government didn’t want “unnecessary controversy”.
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