A little more than a year ago, the alliance partner in Punjab government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had been planning massive rallies across the state over the issue of drugs, much to the consternation of the Akalis. However, in what appears to be a course correction, the party has cast its lot with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) over the issue and stood by it in the controversy over drugs and the movie Udta Punjab.
The mood seems a far cry from the atmosphere prevailing in January 2015 when the first of the rallies was supposed to have been addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah, and at one point of time it was felt that both the parties may break loose of each other and go it alone in the 2017 polls.
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BJP’s enthusiasm for anti-drug rallies had stemmed from the speech made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast in which he touched upon the drugs problem of Punjab and spoke about how a mother had expressed her pain to him. The incensed SAD leadership could only watch as the opposition had a field day asking the BJP to dump their partner if they felt that the situation was so bad in Punjab.
But now there seems to have been a change of heart within the BJP leadership given the manner in which they have toed the Akali line that the state was being defamed on the issue of drugs.
Despite the differences between the two parties over several issues, including the lesser importance being given to the BJP ministers in the cabinet, not only did the state president of BJP and Union Minister of State for Social Justice and EmpowermentVijay Sampla echoed the Akali line but the party also deployed BJP leader and Assistant Media Advisor to Punjab Government, Vineet Joshi, to defend the government on the issue in the various television debates on the movie and drugs problem.
Joshi, too, had earlier been holding seminars across the state through a foundation set up in his father’s name, in which the issue of drug and alcohol addiction among youth were discussed.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Vineet Joshi said that BJP’s stance on drugs had not diluted. “Our stand is still the same and our president Vijay Sampla has made several statements regarding the issue. However we are also very certain that the problem of drugs in Punjab should not be exaggerated as it exists in many other parts of the country too and is more or less on the same level,” he said. Joshi said that the seminars on drugs held by him under the banner of Joshi foundation had also emphasised that the problem was existed at a social level and that the state government alone cannot be made to take the blame.
Senior BJP leader and national secretary of the party, Tarun Chugh, also maintains that the party line is still the same and has not been diluted under the effect of the forthcoming assembly polls. “If the state government is taking adequate action against the drug smugglers then we have to stand by them. There is no question of making any course correction or changing how we view the problem,” Chugh said.