Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a constituent of BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has decided to walk out of the alliance on the issue of the recent farm bills. First, the party quit the government when Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal, resigned from the post of Minister of Food Processing Industries a few days ago. Now, the party has decided to break the alliance that lasted for more than two decades as it started in 1998- and formed a government at the centre as well as in the state of Punjab.
Now, the party has decided to leave NDA over the issue of farm bills and will go into 2022 assembly elections alone. And, this gives BJP a chance to expand its footprint in Punjab where both mainstream parties- the Indian National Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal- are heavily involved in corruption and criminal activities. People of Punjab are so fed up with SAD and Congress that AAP won 20 seats out of 117 in the last assembly election. AAP, a newcomer which was fighting the assembly elections for the first time on the sole agenda of corruption-free governance, won 23.7 per cent votes and emerged as the second-largest party in terms of vote percentage as well as seats.
The SAD-BJP alliance could win only 18 (SAD won 15 out of 94) seats and just 11.2 per cent of the vote. With this, it was was pushed to the third place in the state. Therefore, SAD is nearly over in terms of its political prospects. A party which survives on corruption, hooliganism, and misgovernance definitely has no chance to come to power at a time when India has witnessed most transparent governance at the centre as well as in many states- by BJP as well as many regional parties like BJD, TRS- in the last few years.
So, SAD was baggage for BJP and nothing can be better than its exit from the alliance. At a time when the saffron party is expanding its footprint in Northeast and South-the regions where its presence was negligible- India, it can easily sweep over Punjab if it works hard for one and half years left in the next assembly election.
Akali Dal continued its miserable run in the Lok Sabha polls last year and won only two seats, despite the fact that Modi wave swept across the country and even the most unwinnable candidates secured victory in many constituencies. Despite the bad performance, the party still secured a cabinet berth in the Modi cabinet.
The SAD is also battling infighting, which shows that the party is a mere liability. Last year, SAD leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, had raised questions about the procedure for electing the party president. There is a growing sentiment against the Badal family within the SAD, which has led to bitter infighting in the party.
The BJP-Akali Dal break up should have happened several months earlier when the SAD had not stood behind the BJP on the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) which was brought to give citizenship to minorities, including Sikhs, of neighbouring countries Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The SAD even congratulated Punjab CM, Amarinder Singh for bringing a resolution against the CAA. Akali Dal legislature party leader, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, also suggested an amendment and stated, “The party wants the Congress not to oppose the relief given to thousands of Sikhs, but to focus only on securing relief to the Muslims.” It seems that SAD did not understand the CAA after all, or else it would not have made this utterly bizarre suggestion.
With this stand, the SAD has shown that its perceived activism for the welfare of the Sikh community is merely a political tool and not a matter of principle. The party has time and again echoed Sikh sentiments for garnering political popularity and votes.
However, given its hypocrisy, the popularity of SAD is declining even among the Sikh community, as the party has become the family fiefdom of the Badals in the last few decades. The party came out of the Akali movement, which seeks the welfare and political representation of Sikhs. However, since the Badals took charge of the party, it is working only for the welfare of its own family. Therefore, the BJP has been rid of a major political obstacle in Punjab and it can have a new and healthier start to its political run in Punjab.