Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday said his party remained a permanent ally of the BJP and urged other alliance partners also to stand together ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"The SAD is a permanent ally of the BJP and the NDA," he told reporters after BJP president Amit Shah's meeting here with top Akali Dal leaders, including Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal. There is no conflict between his party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Akali Dal chief said. He said SAD members discussed strategy for the upcoming 2019 parliamentary polls with Shah at the meeting, which was part of the BJP's ‘sampark for samarthan' (contact for support) exercise. Shah also called on two sports legends - hockey's Balbir Singh Sr (94) and athlete Milkha Singh (85) - at their homes during his one-day Chandigarh visit. Sukhbir Badal said his party wanted to appeal to all NDA allies to come together for the Lok Sabha polls.
"The battle is just over six months away. Whatever differences may be there, we should forget those and make one plan,” he said. SAD sources said the two parties decided to form a six-member committee in connection with the 2019 polls. The panel will also take the development work by the NDA government to the people, they said. As part of the same outreach programme, Shah was in Mumbai yesterday to talk to the Shiv Sena, an increasingly reluctant partner in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The SAD and the BJP shared power in Punjab before the Congress won the February 2017 assembly elections.
On seat-sharing between the two parties next year, Badal said, "We will form an internal committee which will discuss that." BJP leader Tarun Chugh said, "Both parties are old and permanent allies. Badal senior is our idol and under his leadership we are moving ahead in Punjab. The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere." Chugh said members of both parties appreciated the development undertaken during the four years of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. Another senior BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna said, “The meeting ended with determination that we have to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls."
Khanna said there are no differences between the two allies and both are working strongly together. However, ahead of the meeting, senior SAD leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder said the Modi government had "ignored” the issues of Punjab in the last four years. Akali Dal sources said some SAD leaders also took up issues related to farmers and the Satluj-Yamuna Link canal at the meeting. The BJP president tweeted after the meeting, "It is always a delight to meet Badal Sahab. Met Shri Parkash Singh Badal ji and Sukhbir at his home in Chandigarh."
Later, he held a meeting with the Punjab BJP unit to discuss election strategy for 2019. Some people were detained by Chandigarh police when they tried to meet Shah to hand over a memorandum on Goods and Services Tax and the situation in Shillong, the scene of the recent violence between Khasi and Sikh communities. Senior SAD leaders Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura (all MPs), Daljeet Singh Cheema, Bikram Singh Majithia were part of the meeting with Shah at the senior Badal's home. Also present were BJP leaders Madan Mohan Mittal, Manoranjan Kalia, Ashwini Sharma and Rajinder Bhandari. Shah also paid obeisance at a gurdwara.
Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher, BJP leader Satya Pal Jain and Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik were with him. On his arrival at the airport, Shah was welcomed by BJP members, including Chandigarh BJP chief Sanjay Tandon and party leader Swaran Salaria. Earlier, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira referred to Operation Bluestar at Amritsar's Golden Temple in 1984, alleging that “priceless historic documents and rare manuscripts” were seized by the Army then. He said at his meeting with Shah, Parkash Singh Badal should demand the release of those documents.
"Dont just beg for seat sharing do some good for the community," Khaira, who is also Leader of Opposition in the assembly, had tweeted. The BJP launched the 'sampark for samarthan' exercise to mark the fourth anniversary of the Modi government. The party said around 4,000 functionaries, including chief ministers and Union ministers, will contact one lakh people to inform them about the government's achievements. In August last year, Shah was on a three-day visit to Haryana where he held a series of meetings and reviewed projects undertaken by the Manohar Lal Khattar government. The BJP chief also visited Chandigarh in May last year.