Punjab BJP on edge over farmers’ stir, split with Akalis

The Punjab unit of the BJP is awaiting some kind of resolution to the face-off between farmers’ groups and the Union government over the three agriculture related laws in order to politically address the impact of not just parting ways with long time ally Akali Dal but also the protests themselves.

Anxious partymen made a beeline to Delhi this week, holding meetings with Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Narendra Singh Tomar, asking about the prospects of any kind of resolution to the impasse.

“The Centre is prepared to resolve all grievances of farmers to end the deadlock between them and the government. This assurance was given by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to our delegation, which met him and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Delhi recently,” BJP Punjab unit president Ashwani Sharma told The Hindu.

Significantly, Mr. Sharma said the delegation also discussed the present political scene in Punjab in view of the upcoming municipal elections in the State, the first since the parting of ways between the BJP and the Akali Dal.

He had earlier announced that the BJP would be fighting all 117 Assembly seats in the State in the 2022 polls, a big jump from the 23 seats it usually fought within the NDA.

The BJP -Akali Dal alliance was one of the oldest of the NDA, but lately the BJP has been chafing at the bit, wanting a larger seat share and more of the urban seats where it felt it was stronger.

Party leaders conceded that the situation on the ground is very much a case of all versus the BJP but drew sustenance from the case in Haryana where the party formed a government twice by appealing counter intuitively to a non-Jat support base.

“It’s a challenge and we need to convert it into an opportunity.. Earlier there were times when it was Congress versus all. Now in Punjab, in fact across the country, it is BJP versus all. In neighbouring Haryana, same thing had happened; the BJP decided to go all alone and that opportunity was converted into an achievement. The party formed government in Haryana and this can happen in Punjab as well,” said Manoranjan Kalia, a former Minister and ex-BJP State president.

Party leaders are banking on urban pockets and say that political work on the ground will start once the farmers agitation is resolved.

“Many programmes have been lined up and we need to strategise on how to maximise our core strengths. It is true that farmers in the State are agitating but the government is also talking to them, there is a space for non-farm politics in urban areas too,” said a senior leader.

For now though, it’s mostly a wait and watch game for State leaders.

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