CHANDIGARH: After the Shiv Sena and BJP parted ways in Maharashtra, the saffron party is now going all out to sort out its differences with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, one of its oldest alliance partners in the country.
Both the parties are in an alliance since 1977, when the Akalis fought the assembly elections with the Jana Sangh (now the BJP) which was then part of the Janata Party coalition. The BJP usually contests three of the 13 parliamentary seats and 23 of the 117 assembly seats, while the SAD contests the rest.
The relationship between the two alliance partners had turned sour with BJP leaders openly talking about going solo in the next state assembly polls in 2022, terming the Akalis a liability.
But the defeat in the bypolls in October this year came as a major jolt to the saffron party which contested Phagwara and Mukerian assembly seats and lost both. By losing the Phagwara seat, its strength in the state assembly has come down to two. This worked in favour of the SAD as BJP leaders softened their stance, said party sources.
On November 9 when the Kartarpur corridor was inaugurated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the Congress-led state government function and addressed a public gathering at Dera Baba Nanak on the stage set up by the Akali Dal before launching the integrated passenger terminal building on the India-Pakistan border. PM Modi and other BJP leaders and Union ministers also visited the SAD pandal in Sultanpur Lodhi during Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary celebrations.
Talking with this correspondent, senior BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna said, "No doubt BJP wants more seats to contest in the next assembly elections in Punjab but this is a time-tested alliance and we will fight the next elections together. However, any decision in this regard will be taken by the party high command."
The saffron party had been vigorously working towards increasing its base in the state by holding a mega membership drive and exploring how it can expand its base in the rural areas which are the traditional vote bank of the Akalis. It has tried to woo Sikh voters by waiving the GST on langar and releasing Sikh prisoners.