Amritsar, Feb.8: Senior leaders of the Punjab unit of the BHaratiya Janata Party (BJP) have reportedly told party president Amit Shah to seriously consider snapping ties with the Prakash Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dalin the run-up to the 2017 state assembly polls. Sources in the BJP state unit said that this view was conveyed to Shah in Saturday’s meeting in New Delhi. They were reportedly of the unanimous view that the BJP needs to end its “marriage” with the SAD and project itself as a party with a clean image and should let the SAD take full blame and responsibility for the problems that the state was experiencing. Read: The party is yet to announce its state unit president as it grapples with the challenge of identifying a suitable candidate for the job.
Shah is reportedly scheduled to meet Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal today. Shah has to also decide the name of the state president under whom the party would contest the 2017 assembly elections. The term of present state party chief Kamal Sharma has already expired and experts opine that the name of the next state party president would signal which way the BJP is headed.
The other names doing the rounds for state party chief are Tarun Chugh and Ashwani Sharma, but if the party is keen on projecting a Sikh face, then Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina , the vice president of the state unit, could be their choice, as the BJP would like to show their secular face and at the same time garner the votes of the Jat Sikh community, which is dominant in the rural areas of Punjab.
Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu has also reportedly put his hat in the race for state party president, but some central BJP leaders seem to be wary of endorsing him because of his hit and run’ style of politics. “Sidhu might have a following, but he is difficult to control and he might not follow the dictates of the high command, ” said a senior leader on condition of anonymity. It maybe recalled that during Jaitley’s campaign to secure a Lok Sabha seat from Punjab, Sidhu kept himself away from Amritsar. For the last a few years, the BJP has been making efforts to strengthen its base in the rural areas of Punjab and even inducted a few Sikh faces. The BJP is keen to put improve its electoral performance, especially after the setbacks that it received in Delhi and Bihar.