Scam-hit BJP drags down Akalis with it

The party’s senior ministers in the Parkash Singh Badal cabinet are mired in allegations of corruption. It has hit the BJP so hard like a tsunami that all its five ministers were recently forced to resign. One of its senior MLAs, Raj Khurana, who held an office of profit in the state government, was arrested and put behind bars by the CBI on graft charges.

Top BJP leaders in Punjab like Master Mohan Lal who held a cabinet minister’s rank till recently, have been openly training guns at both state and central leadership. This was the last thing the BJP would have expected, especially at a time when its senior alliance partner Akali Dal too is tarnished by a series of political whammies that has put the alliance on a sticky wicket in the face of a resurgent Congress in the opposition.

Never ending problems

The BJP’s ongoing bouts of trouble see no end. Its topmost leader Manoranjan Kalia, who was the industries minister, has been axed. His name cropped up in a graft case involving party MLA Raj Khurana. Kalia was arguably the face of the saffron party in the state. Another minister Swarna Ram sails in the same boat and has been booted out. The shakeup in the BJP rank did not even spare its ministers who had nothing to do with graft charges.

Transport ninister Master Mohan Lal fell prey to what he alleges is vendetta by his party state chief Ashwani Sharma who is a strong contender for a ticket from the same constituency represented by Mohan Lal. The perturbed leaders are trying to organise shows of strength on home turfs.

The BJP now has a new set of five ministers, two of them old faces. The BJP, which has 23 treasury bench MLAs in the 117 member  Punjab Assembly, has in fact never been a force capable of standing on its own in Punjab. It has always relied on its alliance partner Akali Dal and of course its laurels as a national party. The state BJP’s splendid win the 2007, bagging for first time a record 23 seats, was perhaps its lone political high point. It may not be the case this time. Senior BJP leader and heath minister Luxmi Kanta Chawla says she will not contest the next election. “Let the younger lot rule,” she said. Denials apart, Chawla is one of the ‘hated’ leaders of the party, at least going by the version of most of the party MLAs, but made it to the list of new ministers.

BJP state president Ashwani Sharma and in-charge of BJP affairs Shanta Kumar say the shakeup, however untimely it may sound, had nothing to do with allegations of corruption. “The changes were being contemplated earlier,” Kumar said. The action came now, but the wake up call was there much earlier, but the saffron party slept over it. The BJP lost political turf in several panchayat and municipal elections after 2007. All BJP MLAs and ministers threatened to  resign accusing the Akali Dal of violating the alliance dharma.

The BJP cannot any longer hope Akali Dal to act as its savior as Dal is battling its own political crisis. After four years in power, the chief minister’s nephew Manpreet Badal has parted ways and formed his own party. One of its MLAs was recently convicted on corruption charges. An Akali Dal leader and nephew of MLA from Jalandhar brought bad name to the party, inviting public outrage, even on Facebook, after he shot dead a hotelier’s son some weeks ago. Claims of good performance by the alliance, which are being questioned by the opposition, only stand to mount miseries for the ruling combine.

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