Shah, Badal meet in outreach ahead of 2019 general elections

Shah, Badal meet in outreach ahead of 2019 general elections

BJP president Amit Shah greets former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal as Sukhbir Singh Badal looks on, in Chandigarh on Thursday. PTI

BJP national President Amit Shah on Thursday held a closed-door meeting with the top leadership of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) in Chandigarh to discuss the strategy for the general elections next year.

The meeting was an attempt by the BJP to reach out to its Punjab ally amidst talk that the two parties were battling strained relations post defeat last year in the Punjab assembly elections. Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha seats and is among the few states in the country where the Congress maintains its stronghold having returned to power last year after a decade of SAD-BJP rule.

The SAD later discounted talk of conflict between the two allies as mere speculation. SAD president and former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, said the Akali Dal is a permanent ally of BJP and there was no conflict between the two parties. “I would like to appeal to all our allies that this is not the time to fight, the battle is in 6 months. We should get together and cast away all our differences,” he said.

Focus on farmers

Five-time CM Parkash Singh Badal was also present during the meeting. Both the SAD and the Punjab BJP were sharing cold vibes ever since they were ousted by the Congress in the 2017 assembly polls. According to sources, the Akali Dal discussed farmers’ issues with Shah and a need to focus the poll strategy on this. The two also discussed tackling the AAP, which managed 20 assembly seats in Punjab last year.

Senior Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is the wife of Sukhbir Badal, is a union minister in Modi’s cabinet. The BJP-SAD poll alliance is a long standing equation and both parties can ill-afford to contest the elections independently, even as the BJP in Punjab has often arguably played second fiddle. As part of the BJP’s initiative, ‘Sampark se Samarthan’, Amit Shah also met sport legends, athlete Milkha Singh and hockey player Balbir Singh senior, at their residences in Chandigarh.