BJP plays second fiddle in SAD story

More than ever before, the BJP in Punjab appears increasingly crisis-prone and Tuesday’s reshuffle of portfolios of its ministers may do little to square the circle. The warning signs are hard to overlook, but that seems precisely what the saffron party is doing.

The SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab is in its second term in office. Unlike BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal has appeared to be in poll mode right from day one of their second innings.

On the other side, the Bharatiya Janata Party, perhaps enamoured merely with getting its pound of flesh in power in the state for another five years, has never looked battle-ready. Many of its leaders in Punjab are a disgruntled lot. Party sources say BJP has never looked so subservient to its alliance partner.

The state leadership, sources said, has to take much of the blame  for the present state of affairs. The balance of power within the alliance is fast turning wobbly. The BJP seems to have compounded its miseries by failing to keep its flock together. The party ministers have been underperformers, falling way below the expectations of the people and the party, party insiders say. That’s one reason why a reshuffle of BJP ministers in the cabinet was put into effect.

But this image makeover may not help.  Portfolios under BJP ministers have been marred by allegations of corruption. One of the saffron party’s credible faces in Punjab, cricketer-turned-MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, has found little support from his own party leadership, least from the Akali Dal, at a time when he was left struggling on his home turf. His is the lone voice within the BJP that has raised issues of alleged discrimination on development agendas that ideally should have been raised by the state leadership. Detractors of senior BJP leaders in Punjab hold party organisation position in their constituencies. At least two of Sidhu bêtes noires from his constituency have been given plum posts in the state organisational leadership.

Whether or not Sidhu quits the party, the posturing with which he has asserted his right to be heard and rightful claims for his constituency has left the its cadre and his constituents pleased. BJP’s state leadership led by its president Kamal Sharma, who was earlier the advisor to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, lives with the perception of being a mute lot.  Even on certain issues of ideology and interests of its core constituents, the BJP has not been able to assert itself much.

Be it the issue of a Bluestar Memorial at the Golden Temple being named after Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale or implementing e-trip for traders, the state BJP has arguably limited itself to lip service.

“Issues being ignored or overlooked is one thing, but what is important is the positioning, posturing and public perception of the party in the state. The party needs some serious introspection,” said a BJP leader.

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