Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 15
Following a high-level BJP meeting on Tuesday, six “prominent” personalities from Punjab on Wednesday joined the saffron party at the party headquarters in Delhi in the presence of state unit president Ashwani Sharma, general secretary in-charge Dushyant Gautam and Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
They include former president of AISSF Harinder Singh Kahlon, advocate Jagmohan Singh Saini who is also the president of Farmers’ Intellectual Front (Patiala), advocate Nirmal Singh from Mohali, Kuldeep Singh Kahlon (former AISSF leader) from Gurdaspur, former Vice-Chancellor of Guru Kashi University Jaswinder Singh Dhillon, and Col Jaibans Singh from Patiala.
Ashwani Sharma said Punjab wants peace and development and those who want will gain confidence when “persons and influencers of such stature join BJP”.
They may not be what is popularly known as “mass leaders”, their joining is important keeping in mind the prevailing perceptions against the BJP in the state.
Subhash Sharma, general secretary of Punjab BJP, said that those who joined may not be “political persons but they are influencers and achievers, and fresh faces from the Sikh community.”
“This will break the perception that the people of Punjab or Sikhs are upset with the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a lot for Punjab and the Sikh community and this is a reflection of that acceptance. The BJP will gain a lot from them”, he added
State leaders say more “prominent personalities from social and political space” in Punjab will join the BJP in the days to come.
Though the party is expected to contest most seats on its own, it may not be averse to alliances with breakaway groups or “high-profile” names/paratroopers from rival parties to take on Congress’s Captain Amarinder Singh in the polls to the 117-member Punjab Assembly. Apparently, “aggrieved leaders” from the Opposition party are also not been ruled out yet.
With SAD stitching an alliance with the BSP, the BJP is now looking at the changed caste equations in the SC/ST-dominated state. The saffron party is facing a tough situation in the state that emerged as the epicenter of farmers’ protests in past months.
Heckled and not allowed to hold functions in their constituencies, many party leaders are believed to have voiced concern to the Central leadership over the resistance they have been facing when they visit their constituencies. The saffron party also performed poorly in the last municipal polls, winning a handful of seats.
In those terms, yesterdays’ poll’ strategy meeting was crucial, though Central leaders today claimed that the “agitation was not even discussed” at the meeting between Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda and leaders from the state.
Those who joined the BJP today called the ongoing farmers’ agitation “politically motivated”. “That the agitation is political, Punjab farmers understand well. The Direct Benefit Transfer of MSP has further clarified their doubts regarding the laws,” they said.
Leaders say they will continue to reach out to farmers to clear the air on all issues. The BJP contested 23 seats in alliance with SAD in 2017. It won three with a vote share of around 29 per cent in seats it contested. Its overall vote share was around 5.4 per cent in 2017.
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