In signs of emerging strain, the Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party's oldest ally, on Thursday "boycotted" a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance, saying it is "extremely upset" over Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's alleged interference in internal affairs of Sikhs.
SAD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral said the party did not attend the meeting of NDA leaders for chalking out a strategy for the budget session of Parliament, even though it wanted to.
He alleged that the party is irked over the issue of "interference" of the RSS in the internal matters of Sikhs, including management of gurdwaras.
The Akali leader also said that the party has objections to statements made by certain BJP leaders that create fear among the minorities.
"We are extremely upset and hurt by what is happening in Hazur Sahib in Nanded. The RSS should not interfere in the religious issues of Sikhs. We have also been demanding a package for the farmers," Gujral said.
"We have strong objections to the RSS' interference in internal affairs of Sikhs," he also said.
The Akali Dal leader, who earlier in the day attended an all-party meeting convened by the government, stayed away from the meeting of NDA allies later in the evening.
"Being a party which has farmers as its base, we have been demanding that there should be a liberal financial package for farmers," he said.
"As a minority party, some 'motor mouths' of the BJP from time to time are making statements which create fear among the minorities. We object to such statements," he also said.
When asked about the SAD not attending the meeting of floor leaders of the NDA, parliamentary affairs minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the BJP's ally had informed in advance that it will not attend the meeting due to some prior engagement.
"The oldest constituent of the NDA, is forced to skip the NDA meeting today because of continued interference of the BJP in gurdwara affairs. Commitment to Sikhs takes the centerstage for Akali Dal rather than power or politics," Akali leader and Delhi spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa posted on Twitter.
Sirsa had on Wednesday told the BJP that it was ready to take the "extreme step" of walking out of the alliance if the interference in Sikhs' internal was not stopped. He said the SAD will not tolerate any interference by the RSS in the management of gurdwaras.
"If the government does not stop interference in gurudwaras, we will be forced to take an extreme step," Sirsa had said.
Incidently, earlier during the day a number of Union minister attended a lunch hosted by Union minister and Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Badal at her residence.