Even as senior BJP senior ministers attended a lunch hosted by SAD leader and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur, the party’s long-term coalition partner boycotted an NDA meeting and threatened to “separate” if the party does not heed its demands.
Senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express that the BJP leadership had not done anything about his party’s warning to stay off the management of their religious places, rein in its leaders who make provocative statements against minorities, and ignored its demands for a package for farmers.
“Our party has told the BJP to keep off the gurdwara management affairs and not interfere in our religious matters. But the RSS keeps meddling with the Sikhs’ religious affairs. We cannot allow that,” Gujral said after deciding not to attend the NDA meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the first day of the budget session.
Asked about the options for SAD, which is now in the opposition in Punjab, Gujral said: “Of course we will take this (boycotting the meeting in protest) forward. If the BJP does not take any steps on our demands, logically, we will separate.”
Gujral’s comments came a day after SAD MLA from Delhi’s Rajouri Garden, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, hit out at the BJP. In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Sirsa attacked the BJP government for its alleged bid to “gain control of Gurdwara Management” through legal intervention. Sirsa alleged that there has been an attempt to give power to the government to elect six members (at present it is two) in the 17-member board of gurdwara management.
Gujral also alleged that the BJP-led government did not do anything concrete on SAD’s demand for a special package for farmers. “In the last meeting of the NDA, I had raised it. But nothing has happened. We are a party of the farming community and we cannot afford to watch the plight of farmers,” he said.
Third, the MP said, there has been a long-time demand from his party to “rein in motormouths” in the ruling party. “There are a number of motormouths in the BJP and they have been making provocative statements against the minority. SAD is a party of minorities and we cannot afford it,” he said.
The move from SAD — one of the BJP’s oldest allies, the other being Shiv Sena — is expected to add to the coalition woes of the BJP ahead of elections. The BJP is busy mending its ties with the Sena, which has been sulking and issuing public statements against the party and its leaders.
The BJP is keen to retain its alliances with smaller parties in regions where it has not been able to emerge as a formidable force on its own. The BJP lost three of its allies from the NDA last year — TDP, PDP and RLSP — and is facing flak from smaller allies in Uttar Pradesh. SBSP leader Om Prakash Rajbhar has repeatedly slammed the BJP and its government in Uttar Pradesh publicly.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar claimed that SAD had informed in advance that it would not attend the NDA meeting due to a prior engagement, PTI reported.