Chandigarh: Former Punjab minister and senior BJP leader Master Mohan Lal has stirred up a controversy by saying that his party, which is an alliance partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, should contest the 2022 Assembly polls in the state alone.
Reacting cautiously to Lal’s statement, SAD termed it as his "personal" thinking.
Lal made the comments at the coronation ceremony of the newly-appointed Punjab BJP unit president, Ashwini Sharma, in Jalandhar on Friday.
“2022 ke chunav ka lakshya banaiye. Yeh Taksali hain, woh gair-Taksali hain, yeh Akali hain, woh gair-Akali hain. Inko parey rakhtey hue Bhartiya Janata Party ki sarkar banaiye (We should aim for the 2022 elections. Be it the Taksalis or non-Taksalis, the Akalis or non-Akalis, keep them aside and form a BJP government),” he said, drawing a thunderous applause from the audience mainly comprising BJP workers.
With almost all of the state leadership present on stage, Lal said the BJP is in power in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and has even managed to be in power in Jammu and Kashmir. "Punjab mein aisa kya ho gaya ki aap Akalion ke sahare hain? Dum dikhayiye (What happened in Punjab that you are at the mercy of the Akalis? Show strength),” he urged Sharma.
The former transport minister on Saturday clarified his position and said his views are personal and not that of the party.
"I just kept my party workers’ sentiments in front of the leaders. It’s for the party to decide whether to side with the Akalis or not," he said. "But I personally believe that the BJP should independently contest the elections to gauge its standing.”
SAD leader and former minister Daljeet Singh Cheema said Lal's comments were made at an event where the atmosphere was charged.
“When a party holds a meeting, every member expresses himself. And when the atmosphere is one of excitement, like the coronation of a new president, some members tend to go overboard," said Cheema. "The same happens in our meetings as well. These comments are personal. Our parties are mature enough and we know that. We aren’t contesting together for the first time.”
“Both the parties have made it clear several times that ours is a decades-old coalition. I would still say that the SAD and the BJP will fight the 2022 elections together and will form a government in the state together,” he added.
BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh said that the BJP has a strong organisation in the state but the decision on alliances is taken by the parliamentary board.
"Whatever decision it takes, all the party workers will have to follow,” he said.
When asked if the coalition will stick to the old seat-sharing formula in the state, Chugh replied, “Politics rests on evaluation, not formulae.”