The BJP will contest 65 seats, Capt Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress will field candidates on 37 seats while the Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s SAD (Sanyukt) will fight from 15 assembly constituencies in the upcoming Punjab election. BJP chief JP Nadda, addressing a press conference, shared these details and also emphasised the importance that the party attaches to the state bordering Pakistan. Stability and security in Punjab, Nadda said, is important to the entire country. He said that “mafias” ranging from those dealing with drugs to sand were active in the state.
Nadda said the alliance stood for a “zero tolerance” policy towards terrorism and promised coming down hard on the mafia.
Nadda announced also the seat-sharing agreement in Punjab, according to which the BJP will contest 65 seats, PLC on 37, SAD (Sanyukt) on 15. Nadda, however, said that there could be small readjustments. “This is the broad figure which I am giving,” he said.
“Punjab is a border state. A stable Punjab is important for the country. There is a 600-km-long border that Punjab shares with Pakistan,” Nadda said. He said activities like drug and arms smuggling activities were emanating in Pakistan. Drones were also being used for these activities, he said.
“Security is a very important issue as far as Punjab election is concerned,” Nadda said. He said the country is progressing under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some anti-national powers were trying to destabilise this process.
The BJP chief said that regime change was not the only aim of this alliance. “We are looking to provide safety to future generations and stability to the state. The contribution of Punjab can never be forgotten,” Nadda said. He mentioned the contribution of Sikh gurus, freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and also farmers who gave food security to the country.
Nadda said that Punjab needed attention as despite being a progressive state, it was mired in debt. He claimed that criminals like the sand mafia, land mafia and drug mafia were active in the state. Nadda promised to wipe out all such mafia from the state.
There will be “zero tolerance” of terrorism, he asserted.
Nadda said union-state coordination was important for Punjab and a “double-engine” government was needed in the state.
The BJP chief also mentioned a number of measures that the union government had taken with the interests of Punjab and also Sikhs in mind.
Amarinder Singh said that a lot of weaponry was coming to Punjab from across the Pakistan border and the situation requires careful handling. He said drones were being used to aid nefarious activity. He also raised questions about Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging the Pakistan army chief. Soldiers from Punjab were being killed, Amarinder Singh said.
Dhindsa also lauded the various steps taken by the union government.
This is the first time that the BJP is leading a coalition of NDA parties in the Punjab polls. In earlier state elections, the BJP had always been the junior partner to the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is contesting separately under the leadership of the Badal family.
The BJP has already released a list of 34 of its 65 candidates. The party has fielded several former Akali and INC leaders along with their own veterans. BJP state chief Ashwani Sharma will also contest from the Pathankot seat.
Similarly, Capt Singh will contest from his Patiala bastion.
Punjab, which goes to the polls on 20 February, is set to witness a five-cornered contest for the first time. The ruling INC is facing a stiff challenge from the AAP, Akalis, BJP and a farmers’ front.