M A I N   N E W S

SAD in a fix over Advani’s remarks
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 4
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s call to the voters “not to go in for smaller and regional-level outfits” in the Lok Sabha elections has put the SAD, the main ally of the BJP in Punjab, in a quandary.

Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, Secretary and official spokesman of the SAD, said today that “he had no comment to offer on the statement”.

But certain senior SAD leaders, especially those in the thick of electoral battle, say that it was the “most damaging” statement made by Mr Advani against the regional parties at such a delicate stage of electioneering” and “It would certainly hit us hard in the elections”, said a senior SAD leader, requesting anonymity.

The SAD is a sworn enemy of the Congress and has been fighting against it for several decades. Mr Advani’s reported plea to vote for the Congress as a second preference after the BJP has shocked Akali leaders.

“Our rival Akali factions had been saying for the past several years that the BJP wanted to finish the regional parties as it was for a two-party system in the country. Mr Advani’s statement had finally brought the cat out of the BJP’s bag,” said another senior Akali leader.

“We cannot speak on record at this crucial stage when the campaign has started picking up. The damage could be undone only if Mr Advani refutes the statement and clarifies his position on the issue,” said another senior Akali leader, who is contesting the elections.

Reacting to Mr Advani’s statement, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann said “it was a very dangerous statement made by Mr Advani, who had exhibited the BJP’s fascist approach towards the regional parties”. Urging Mr Badal to clarify his position vis-a-vis Mr Advani’s statement, Mr Mann said that the SAD chief was the most vocal supporter of the BJP and its policies. “I am sure Mr Badal will not speak against Mr Advani and the BJP, which he needed the most for help in corruption cases”, added Mr Mann. The BJP wanted to finish the SAD through Mr Badal, alleged Mr Mann.

Meanwhile, the Congress has endorsed Mr Advani’s statement saying that it is a good development that the Union Deputy Prime Minister had stood in support of the national parties. Welcoming the statement, Mr Kewal Krishan, Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, said that the SAD should clear its stand on the issue as the “rejection of regional parties like the SAD by a senior BJP leader is acceptance of the prevalent ground realities”.

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