Undeterred by farmer protests, BJP says will fight with hope to form next govt in Punjab

The party, that is currently planning a series of public rallies and programmes in the state, says it is up for the challenge.

Despite being cornered due to farmers’ protests and also without its crucial ally, the Akali Dal, the Punjab BJP has set itself a massive target of farming the next government in the state in 2022. It is a goal that would require the BJP to significantly better its current strength of 2 MLAs in the 117-member state Assembly. But the party, that is currently planning a series of public rallies and programmes in the state, says it is up for the challenge.

But despite a protest by farmers against its Abohar MLA taking an ugly turn last week, Punjab BJP’s core committee on Tuesday discussed a plan intensify its public outreach campaign.

Talking to The Indian Express, Dinesh Kumar, organisational secretary, Punjab BJP, said, “We will form government on our own in 2022. People know what is true and which party is for the welfare of masses. We are working at ground level and will continue to work despite protests.”

It was on September 28 last year, a day after SAD had snapped ties with BJP, that state BJP chief Ashwani Sharma had announced after a core committee meeting that the party was ready to fight the next Assembly polls alone. Ever since them Sharma, and other senior leaders like Tarun Chug, have been asserting that the BJP will form the next government in the state.

Tarun Chugh, who is the party’s national secretary these days, had in 2017 Assembly polls lost to Congress’s Om Parkash Soni by 21,116 votes from Amritsar Central. State BJP president Ashwani Sharma, who was the sitting MLA from Pathankot, had in 2017 lost to Congress’s Amit Vij by 11,170 votes.

BJP’s 2017 report card

In the last Assembly polls in 2017, the BJP had contested on 23 seats as part of the seat sharing arrangement with its then ally SAD, but won only three. Among the three, Arun Narang had defeated PPCC president Sunil Jakhar from Abohar with a margin of 3,279 votes, while Dinesh Singh Babbu had defeated Congress’s Amit Mantoo by 18,701 votes in Pathankot’s Sujanpur constituency. Phagwara was the third seat won by Somparkash with a margin of only 2,009 votes defeating Congress’s Joginder Mann. However BJP lost Phagwara in 2019 bypolls that were held after Somparkash won Lok Sabha elections from Hoshiarpur.

However on the rest 20 seats, performance was not very encouraging as BJP was at a distant second place on 15 seats. Further, the party was on the third place in Amritsar West, Ludhiana West and Rajpura Assembly seats where its respective candidates Rakesh Gill, Kamal Chetli and Harjeet Singh Grewal were even behind AAP candidates.

Harjeet Grewal, who is in news ever since farmer protests have started, had got 19,151 votes in Rajpura during the 2017 polls, while the winning Congress candidate Hardial Singh Kamboj had defeated AAP candidate Ashutosh Joshi by 12,565 votes. Grewal was 19, 956 votes behind Kamboj to finish at the third place. In Ludhiana West, another urban seat, Bharat Bhushan Ashu had defeated Ahbab Grewal (AAP) candidate by 36,521 votes, while Chetli was 44,007 votes behind Ashu to finish a distant third.

In Fazilka, sitting MLA Surjeet Kumar Jyani lost poll by only 265 votes to first timer Devinder Ghubaya, son of former SAD MP Sher Singh Ghubaya. Similar was the case in Ludhiana North where BJP’s Parveen Bansal had lost to Congress’s Rakesh Pandey by a small margin of 5,132 votes.

Its sitting MLAs had lost by huge margins on several seats. Manoranjan Kalia had lost with a margin of 24,078 votes from Jalandhar Central, while Anil Joshi had lost by 14,236 votes from Amritsar North. Sitting MLA Seema Kumari from Bhoa had lost to Congress’s Joginder Pal by 28,496 votes

In 2012 Assembly polls, however, BJP had fought in alliance with SAD, it had won 12 out of its 23 seats. In 2007, its performance was even better as it had won 19 out of 23 seats.

Fallout of attack on Abohar MLA

Attack on MLA Arun Narang, meanwhile, seems to reenergised the BJP ranks. A bandh was held in Malout and Abohar, though for 4 hours a day only. Narang said,” I have never said anything wrong about farmers. I never said anything bad even when they staged a day-night dharna outside my house for 12 days from October 2-13 in a narrow lane of Abohar despite the fact that elders and small children in my house were troubled due to loudspeaker’s noise.”

He added, “It was literally a murderous attack on March 27…I want to tell party workers that they should continue working for the party in a fearless manner. Such incidents cannot demoralise us.”

Expressing anger against attempt to murder and assault incident on Abohar

BJP’s Sujanpur MLA Dinesh Singh Babbu said: “In 2007, I had defeated former Punjab cabinet minister Raghunath Sahai Puri with 280 votes while in 2012, I defeated Congress’s Vinay Mahajan with 24,000 votes and in 2017, I defeated Congress candidate Amit Mantoo with 18,701 votes. I have worked in the area and people know my work. There is no pakka dharna near my house in Sujanpur area by farmers…no doubt they do organise protests on a regular basis and even show me black flags at times…. However, I am not scared. Punjab government is bound to maintain our security and I will be conducting public rallies in my area and around as per the party programme.”

Dinesh Kumar added, “What was our position in West Bengal earlier. Look, now we are winning in Bengal. We never used to form the government in Assam and now I think we will repeat it. No one can predict what is going to happen in the coming few months. People are watching everything silently and they will show their preferences in polls. So, we will continue our campaign in the months to come whatever conditions we may face.”

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