Punjab is going to the polls on 20th February this year. Every political party has exerted its complete strength for winning this assembly election. The parties are not only contesting this election to gain power in the state. But the battle is being fought for the sake of identity and revival along with a quest for establishing a legacy. The elections in Punjab this time have a new essence as the old alliances have broken and new alliances and political parties are being formed.
In Punjab, the Congress is betting on Channi’s face whereas BJP has entered into an alliance with Akali Dal (Sanyukt), and the Punjab Lok Congress headed by ex-Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The orthodox Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is dependent on BSP after exiting from NDA to save its sinking boat in Punjab.
NDA: Alliance between BJP and SAD / BJP & SAD: An alliance of convenience
Shiromani Akali Dal, last was in the news when Member of Parliament Harsimrat Kaur Badal came out of the Parliament after resigning from the NDA Government.
Akali Dal was not just the oldest partner of the Bhartiya Janta Party but was also one of the founding members of the NDA Alliance. The alliance between the BJP and SAD broke on the debate of contentious Farm Laws brought in by the Modi Government.
Although, the alliance between the Akalis and the BJP can be termed as ‘a marriage of convenience’. As the ideology of both parties were poles apart. The BJP had a stronghold in the urban population of Punjab, especially Hindus and Akali Dal had portrayed itself as ‘gareebon ki party’. In this alliance, the BJP brought in the urban class Hindu (Khatri) votes whereas Shiromani Akali Dal focused on the rural votes.
The Question of Post Poll Alliance
The BJP is fighting the assembly polls on its own without the Akalis. BJP, before this, has never fought on more than 25 seats. This time the Bhartiya Janta Party is contesting on 65 seats. With the changed alignments in Punjab, the political pundits are predicting a distorted majority in this election. This gives rise to the question of ‘Post Poll Alliance’.
In such a question of Post Poll Alliance, the Sikh face of BJP, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri called the alliance with SAD a ‘bad marriage’. Puri said ‘the BJP is assured that it is a potent force in Punjab. And without the Shiromani Akali Dal, the viability of BJP has increased.’
In his interview with the Press, Puri claimed that the partnership between the Akalis and BJP was a ‘bad marriage’ and they are happy that it is broken. He went on to say, ‘the day when Akalis left us was the best day of our political journey.’
BJP relived at the end of ‘bad marriage’
Now, let’s see how BJP will be benefitted from the exit of Akalis.
An opportunity to grow
BJP has allied with the Akalis for many years now. This alliance has not allowed the BJP to grow in Punjab. In the alliance, the Shiromani Akali Dal has always acted as a ‘big-brother’.
The Akalis never allowed the BJP to contest from any rural seat, claiming it as their vote bank. Rather sometimes the Akalis also encroached on some of the urban seats where BJP had a stronghold in the name of being the senior partner in the alliance.
The Akalis have played an instrumental role in weakening the BJP. The Akalis did not allow BJP’s leadership to develop and gain popularity in the state of Punjab. This weakening was being done to decrease the dependence of Akalis over BJP. This in turn shifted the Hindu vote bank of BJP towards Congress in the last election of 2017.
A war against Drugs
The Akali government was a complete failure in controlling the drug nexus that engulfed the youth of Punjab in their reign. SAD suffers the stigma of destroying the youth of Punjab, due to its failure to check drug supply. The B JP which has vast support of the youth nationwide is happy with the exit of SAD, as it clears the image of BJP.
The sword on dynasty politics
Ex-chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, who is fighting the election at 94 declared his son Sukhbir Singh Badal as the CM face of SAD who has the lowest approval rate.
In the press briefing, Hardeep Singh Puri clearly mentioned that BJP is not a party that supports nepotism and in BJP tickets are distributed on terms of merit. In this way, the BJP is trying to target the Badal family’s control over the party. Also, the segregation from Akalis gives strength to the BJP’s fight against Dynasty Politics.
SAD: A Sinking Ship
Shiromani Akali Dal emerged as a movement party in 1920 that later converted to an electoral party. The Akali Dal was initially formed as a task force of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). The main agenda was to give a political voice to Sikh issues.
This Sikhism centric party controls the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee along with SGPC. The party clearly believes that religion and politics go hand in hand and is currently struggling to paint a secular image of itself.
In order to monopolise political power, the Badals systematically weakened the institutions like the Akal Takht and the SGPC in the last two decades. A party that grew because of ‘panthic’ support slowly eroded it in hunger to monopolise power.
Now, after being irrelevant due to their orthodox political attitude, Badal led SAD has become a pro at losing elections. After exiting from NDA, the Akalis have associated with Bahujan Samaj Party to gain the Hindu Dalit votes.