Chandigarh, June 6: BJP president Amit Shah will meet Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh Thursday as part of the party’s attempt to reach out to allies ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The meeting convened at short notice comes after back-to-back setbacks in the recent Karnataka assembly elections and bypolls in different states. The BJP chief is scheduled to meet Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Wednesday before traveling to Chandigarh to meet the Badals on Thursday.
The Akali Dal is an important and trusted constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but the ties have been strained after Punjab assembly polls last year.
In public, the BJP and the SAD leaders are terming Shah’s visit as ‘routine’.
“We should not make assumptions. Our national chief is visiting every state and his Punjab’s visit was long due. As far as meeting with senior Badal is concerned, he (Parkash Singh Badal) is one of the most experienced politicians in the country at present. Amit Shah is visiting him to pay regards and take guidance from him,” said Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik.
But the visit is also being seen as a step to improve ties between the two partners ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
“More than overseeing the preparations for the Lok Sabha polls, Shah’s motive is to reach out to the SAD to improve ties. Generally, national party plans state visit much in advance. Here, we were informed only three days before,” said a former state BJP chief.
In public, both parties have maintained that they share good relationship but they have been at loggerheads on different issues despite being partners at the Centre.
Akali Dal has opposed the BJP on various issues, be it appointment of chairman or members of the National Minority Commission. It has also accused the BJP of not taking all NDA partners into confidence on important issues.
Shah’s visit comes three days after the Centre announced ‘Sewa Bhoj Yojana’ a scheme for reimbursement of GST on langar served in religious places. GST on langar items was a sensitive religious issue for the Akalis and they had vigorously pushed for it with Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal threatening to quit the Narendra Modi cabinet if the demand for waiving the tax was not met.
According to schedule with the BJP state unit, Shah would meet the Badals for two and a half hours between noon and 2:30 pm. As the Badals’s Sector 9 residence in Chandigarh is under construction, the venue of the meeting is yet to be decided. Whenever senior Badal visits the state capital, he stays in the flat allotted to him as an MLA.
Shah is also scheduled to hold a meeting with the core group of the party and the Dalit leadership of the state unit of the BJP. He will leave for Delhi in the evening.
Source Hindustan Times