Twenty months after they were voted to power, NDA allies, particularly the Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, confronted big brother BJP over a host of issues at a meeting of the alliance Monday night. Even TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who was not so blunt as the rest, asked the BJP to be more supportive of the allies in states where they are in power.
The meeting at the residence of Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, chaired by BJP president Amit Shah, had been called to ensure better coordination among NDA allies, inside and outside Parliament.
Shah wrapped up the somewhat stormy proceedings by declaring that they would all contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as allies. He assured the allies that individual concerns would be addressed in separate meetings with the constituents.
At the meeting, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut was quoted as having said: “Sometimes, we have difficulty understanding whether or not this is our government.”
RPI’s Ramdas Athawale raised the issue of the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student of Hyderabad University. This was one issue which had damaged the image of the NDA, Athawale was quoted as telling the meeting. The central government stand on the minority status of Jamia Millia Islamia too figured in the discussions, sources said.
On Tuesday, Shah met Chandrababu Naidu during the day and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal at night.
We are jointly working on a strategy to win the next elections: Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal pic.twitter.com/kuBpeElPfs
— ANI (@ANI_news) February 9, 2016
Sources said Shah assured Badal that their alliance in Punjab would remain intact and a meeting would soon be called to chalk out a joint strategy for the assembly elections in the state next year.
Badal, sources said, was very vocal at the Monday meeting of the alliance partners where he said there was a growing feeling among minorities that the NDA government was anti-minority. He is learnt to have said there was a “huge difference” between the earlier NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the current one. He also underlined that there was “no coordination” between the BJP and its allies on major issues.
He said top Akali leaders used to get an appointment from Vajpayee “at five-minute notice” but now one could be “made to wait for months”. He said even the UPA government would listen to an Opposition government and try to accommodate their just demands, sources said.
Badal cited reports which quoted BJP leaders as saying that the party was still to decide whether to continue the alliance in Punjab. He told Shah that such statements did the combine no good, though the BJP, the smaller partner in the state government, was free to chart its own course. Sources said he made a pointed reference to the statements of former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu. He also complained that Akali leaders were not informed about programmes of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the region.
Shah, sources said, assured Badal that the alliance was strong as ever and there was no truth in reports that the BJP planned to fight the next assembly elections on its own.
Badal was quoted as having said: “Give me one instance where any leader of the Akali Dal has made any statement about any BJP leader. On the other hand, I can cite numerous instances where BJP leaders have spoken about Akali Dal leaders.”
When Raut endorsed the points made by Badal, Venkaiah Naidu, sources said, pointed out that Sena mouthpiece Saamna had criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Raut said this was not correct since the Sena had always been clear about its stand on the issue of Pakistan.
He said the Sena was opposed to peace talks with Pakistan as long as that country backed terrorism in India. “This is the Shiv Sena line and there is nothing against the Prime Minister in it,” Raut was quoted as having said, adding “Pakistan and the Prime Minister are not the same”.
Sources said Raut complained that unlike Vajpayee and Advani, the BJP no longer consulted its allies on important issues. He was particularly critical of the partners being kept out of the consultation process on matters as important as the attack on the Pathankot airbase.