- Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral says BJP should respect allies
- He says Akali Dal is "against the NRC", wants Muslims included in list
- Consultations do not happen in the NDA, he adds
Several parties in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are unhappy with the way they have been treated, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral told NDTV on Tuesday, adding that his party, which supports the BJP at the centre and has one member in the Union Cabinet, could rethink that support if "amends" were not made. Mr Gujral reminded the current generation of BJP leaders of the "Vajpayee touch", urging them to learn from the late former Prime Minister and respect allies.
In a short but hard-hitting interview, Mr Gujral also warned the ruling BJP the Akali Dal was "against the NRC" and wants Muslims to be included in the list of refugees seeking citizenship under the citizenship law.
"It is unfortunate that in the NDA discussions (referring to key legislations like the Citizenship Act) do not take place. It is also unfortunate consultations do not happen. This is why bulk of NDA allies are unhappy," he said.
"I've said it time and again... we need that Vajpayee touch. Vajpayee-ji, if you recall, ran a coalition with almost 20 parties. Yet everybody remained happy because everybody was given respect... they were treated with equality. Vajpayee-ji's doors were always open... there was consultation," he continued, saying that the only BJP leader who had learned those lessons was Arun Jaitley who died earlier this year.
"As long as he was alive, I would say channels always remained open... we always had a go-to person. Unfortunately, after his demise, these channels are really not working," he said.
When asked if the Akali Dal was considering withdrawing support Mr Gujral said that depended on "what kinds of stances the government takes".
"...depend on what kinds of stances the government takes. As I've said, I've talked to many other allies and nobody is really happy... nobody is happy with the fact meetings don't happen time to time and I think some amends needs to be made," he said.
This is not the first the time Akali Dal, which allied with the BJP for 2017 Punjab polls in which it lost dismally, has reminded the BJP of the "Vajpayee touch".
Ahead of a parliament session in NDA-1, Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal told Amit Shah, BJP president, "BJP needs to listen to its allies like former Prime Minister Vajpayee did as head of NDA".
Earlier this year PM Modi said the BJP was open to alliances and cherished old friends, recalling the "successful coalition politics" of Mr Vajpayee in the 1990s.
The BJP's relation with its NDA allies has been seen by many to be increasingly tenuous in recent months.
The party fell out with long-time ally Shiv Sena earlier this year after post-Assembly poll disagreements over power-sharing. And its alliance with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) in Bihar is under the spotlight, particularly with Assembly polls scheduled next year.
Meanwhile, Mr Gujral also urged the NDA to focus on promises made to the people in 2014, suggesting that recent electoral reverses - such as Maharashtra and Jharkhand - may have been because the party had strayed from its earlier stated agenda.
"We were elected in 2014 on an economic agenda and we need to focus on that. The people of India still feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can change their lives for the better - whether housing, education, healthcare or, importantly, jobs. But the focus must move back to the economy," he said.