Millennium Post

Political hawk eye over Punjab

The BJP seems elated over its marvellous electoral performance in 2014. The party is determined to win over more states in subsequent assembly elections and acquire a pan India presence. It’s no secret that by winning more states, the party also hopes to acquire the status of the largest party in Rajya Sabha.  If the BJP does secure a majority in the upper house of Parliament, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in a position to overcome its handicap of getting crucial bills passed, thereby avoiding the compulsion of the ordinance route. 

BJP president Amit Shah and Modi have been working in tandem to devise result oriented strategies to win over different states. The blue print that has been chalked out in various states includes either securing an absolute majority or emerging as the number one partner in the coalition government, on the lines of Maharashtra. In lieu of such a strategy, Modi and Shah have been involved in continuous interactions about the various states going to the polls, at least until 2017.  At present, the saffron party is preparing to defuse the euphoria surrounding its rival the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. The national capital has become a crucial battleground for Modi, as defeat may derail the party’s ambitious plans for expansion.  This year the saffron party will also test the waters in the Bihar assembly elections.

The recent developments in Punjab are an indication of the party’s future political scenario.  Modi and Shah have probably decided to dismantle the oldest tie up between the two communal parties.  The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bhartiya Jansangh/BJP alliance cobbled in 1969-70 is still on track despite differences. This coalition gave Punjab its youngest ever chief minister in PS Badal, at the age of 43 in 1970.  The five-term Chief Minister Badal, however, is worried about the developments made by the BJP, since the latter made up its mind to launch its Anti- Drugs campaign from January 22nd, 2014, at Amritsar.  

The way Modi took up the issue of drug addiction in his recent radio broadcast has also hurt its senior coalition partner. Punjab minister and SAD functionary Bikram Singh Majithia, who happens to be the brother of Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday in connection with Rs 6,000 crore synthetic drug racket case. This investigation has also strained the present political arrangement in Punjab.  The senior Badal is scared of imminent defeat in the upcoming assembly elections, with his party’s fortunes on the downswing. He has been trying his best to keep the coalition in shape, whereas the BJP is keen to get rid of the SAD, a party that has become synonymous with corruption and nepotism.

The BJP’s best performance in Lok Sabha elections was in 2002, when it got three seats. In the 2007 assembly elections, the BJP won 19 seats in a 117-member house.  The BJP secured 8.28 per cent votes in 2007 assembly polls and 7.13 per cent votes in 2012 election. Meanwhile, the SAD had dropped from 37.08 per cent in 2007 to 34.75 per cent in 2012 and the INC at 40.11 and 40.90 per cent respectively.  Considering past trends, it will be difficult for the BJP to achieve its desired result. Hence the party is in the process of hunting potential political bigwigs to make them part of its expanding family, competent enough to sail through the difficult assembly elections in 2017.

A former Lok Sabha member JS Brar and two former MLAs, besides dozens of party functionaries, have deserted the Congress. They are eager to switch over to the BJP.  Brar has spoken highly of Modi and is awaiting signals from the BJP. If the BJP takes in Brar and his affiliates, the party may shed its perception of being a party of Hindus and enlarge its base among Sikhs.

Another hope for the BJP is the current spate of infighting in the Punjab Congress. Captain Amrinder Singh has conveyed his message to Sonia Gandhi in no uncertain terms that either Punjab Congress president PS Bajwa should be removed from the post or the party faces the music. In the event of his demand not being met, Singh would be willing to form a regional party or associate himself with the BJP.  His mother Maharani Mohinder Kaur had been a Jan Sangh Rajya Sabha member. Singh comes from a politically vibrant family.  His wife was a minister in UPA government at the Centre and his sister is married to Natwar Singh. Singh is President of the All India Jat Mahasabha and has substantially contributed to the community’s upliftment. He had been in the news due to his opposition to Operation Blue Star and his expulsion from the Punjab Assembly, on charges of financial irregularities. The BJP would see comfort in having Amrinder Singh in its fold or to have the leader as its coalition partner, in case he decides to form a regional party.
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