SAD leaders insist RSS must stop meddling in Sikh affairs, and BJP’s attitude towards allies must improve. Ruling party downplays the boycott.
New Delhi: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Thursday boycotted a meeting of the NDA, accusing the RSS of meddling in the religious matters of Sikhs and the BJP of not treating its allies properly.
This signalled the continuing winter of discontent in the ruling alliance at the Centre, with the BJP already facing heat from the Shiv Sena and other allies. Since the party came to power at the Centre in 2014, it has lost 16 allies, including Andhra Pradesh’s TDP and Bihar’s RLSP.
The meeting was convened on the first day of the final session of Parliament in the tenure of the 16th Lok Sabha, and was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was attended by union ministers Rajnath Singh and Narendra Singh Tomar and party president Amit Shah on behalf of the BJP, while the allies were represented by the Republican Party of India (Athawale)’s Ramdas Athawale, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel and the Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Chandra Paswan.
BJP downplays boycott, but Akalis raise their voice
Asked about the Akalis’ reported boycott, Narendra Singh Tomar, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, said SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra had come for the meeting, but left after citing some “urgent business”.
Some BJP leaders brushed off the boycott as a “minor incident” prompted by the need to negotiate for seats ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, and said they were sure the SAD wouldn’t leave the NDA fold.
But Akali MP Naresh Gujral confirmed that the SAD, one of the BJP’s oldest allies, was indeed boycotting the meeting.
Confirming that his party his “angry”, Gujral said: “The RSS is interfering in our gurudwara elections and other religious affairs. This is unacceptable.”
Among other reasons, Gujral said the SAD has been raising farmers’ issues for years, but these had been neglected by the BJP.
“We have been crying hoarse for years over the issues related to farmers, but there has been no response to that by the government. We are upset,” he said.
Another senior SAD leader, on the condition of anonymity, said the BJP’s treatment of its allies was a matter of concern, and that the party has raised the issue with its ally.
One more reason cited by leaders who wished to remain anonymous was “motormouth” BJP leaders.
“They say objectionable things about minorities and make them feel unsafe. We too are a minority and they should realise this,” said another leader.
Winter of discontent
This is not the first time the BJP is having trouble with its allies this winter. Bihar ally Upendra Kushwaha of the RLSP left the fold on 10 December, citing mistreatment, as a ‘respectable’ number of seats were not offered to him.
At present, all its Northeastern allies are upset because of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last month.
In between, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP too made a few noises over seat distribution in Bihar, while the Shiv Sena has long maintained that it will quit the alliance and contest on its own, but has remained part of the governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
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