When asked to comment on the recent changes at the Centre, a Shiv Sena leader observed: “It was the BJP government’s expansion, not the NDA’s”. NDA coalition partners have reason to be unhappy. They have not just been left out in the ministry expansion; they were neither consulted nor briefed. Basic niceties and coalition dharma, it appears, are no longer in fashion. By now reconciled to the way it is treated in “Modi Durbar”, the Akali Dal leadership has stopped complaining. Only the Shiv Sena makes public its anger at the deliberate neglect. Unafraid of jeopardizing its arrangement in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena’s reaction varied from “we do not beg for Cabinet berths” to questioning the caliber of Modi’s ministers. In the BJP’s growth and expansion scheme in states, allies serve a limited purpose.
BJP leaders’ arrogant behavior annoys the Shiv Sena but the Akali Dal has apparently learnt to put up with it. Whatever the portfolio, it appears content with the Badal bahu’s adjustment in the ministry. The Centre’s “discrimination with Punjab” used to be a recurring theme of Chief Minister Badal’s speeches at one time. It is a different tune he plays today. If he does make a demand – like seal the border – it is more to shrug off responsibility for the drug menace than genuinely find a solution. Larger issues – terror attacks, neglect of agriculture, meagre hikes in MSPs, river cleanup, Central stand on SYL etc – no longer agitate the Badals as they did in the past. Only Delhi Akali leader Manjit Singh GK has shown some courage while accusing the Modi government of having “the same mindset as the Congress on the issue of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots”.
The RBI has pointed to a loss of Rs 12,000 crore of bank loans in the wheat procurement in Punjab, but both the Central and Punjab governments have failed to come clean on the issue. A cover-up in this day and age does not last long. An otherwise aggressive Akali leadership turns meek while taking up Punjab’s legitimate demands with the Centre. It has a right to keep its peace with Modi but, as a Congress leader has pointed out, Punjab is under-represented at the Centre.