Changing face of Akali Dal-BJP alliance

Chandigarh, Sep 28 (IANS) The political alliance between the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Punjab has remained solid despite ups and downs from time to time. But the alliance keeps undergoing a change of face - at least on paper.

The alliance has been running since 2007 and is now in its second consecutive term. In the last six years, the face of this alliance has seen changes from the BJP's side.

In all advertisements of the Punjab government, hoardings, posters and other forms of publicity, photographs of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and the leader of the BJP group in the assembly feature. While the photographs of the Badal father-son duo have remained unchanged, those of the BJP leaders have changed thrice.

For the first four years, Manoranjan Kalia was the face of the BJP. He was the party's seniormost cabinet minister in the government. Kalia was however dropped from the Badal cabinet in May 2011 after a corruption controversy.

For the next few months, till the January 2012 assembly elections, the photograph of Tikshan Sud appeared with those of the Badals. Sud had become the BJP leader in the assembly after Kalia was removed from the post but when the election results were announced in March that year and he lost, his photograph also disappeared.

The next to make it was BJP leader Bhagat Chunni Lal. His photograph has continued to appear since last March. The BJP reshuffled the portfolios of its ministers this week but has not so far changed its group leader.

In its previous 2007-2012 tenure, the Akali Dal was dependent on the BJP for staying in power. The Akalis had 48 seats and the BJP had 19 in the 117-member assembly.

In the present assembly, the Akali Dal, after winning two by-elections, has got 59 legislators while the BJP has 12. The Akali Dal has a simple majority in the assembly and does not need the BJP's support. The alliance, however, continues.

The BJP has lesser problems with the Akali Dal than it has within its ranks. Its Lok Sabha MP from Amritsar, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu's recent outburst against the Badal government and the state BJP leadership over the lack of development in Amritsar has generated a lot of controversy. There have been stand-offs between BJP leaders earlier also.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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