SAD forges alliance with BSP

SAD forges alliance with BSP

The alliance materialised after Sukhbir Badal announced last week that his party is open to tie-ups barring the Congress, BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has come full circle in Punjab’s alliance politics as it revived decades-old ties with the Bahujan Samaj Party, after ending a long and largely successful alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Announcing the tie-up at a press conference, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal described it as a new day in the politics of Punjab.

“Today, is a historic day…a big turn in Punjab’s politics, he said in the presence of BSP General Secretary Satish Chandra Mishra.

He said the SAD and the BSP will jointly fight the 2022 polls and other forthcoming elections together.

BSP reclaims BJP’s place in Punjab alliance politics

The Mayawati-led BSP will fight 20 of the 117 Assembly seats in Punjab, while the rest will be contested by the SAD.

Among the seats which the BSP will contest are Kartarpur Sahib in Jalandhar, Jalandhar-West, Jalandhar-North, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur Urban, Dasuya, Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district, Bassi Pathana, Sujanpur in Pathankot, Mohali, Amritsar North and Amritsar Central.

However, it is noteworthy that Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine had lost all the seats in the 2017 elections that are being offered to BSP, CNN-News18 reported. Seven of the seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, which is consequential because BSP is said to have a considerable hold over the 31 percent Dalit votes in the state.

The Akali Dal and BSP are joining hands after 27 years. They were in an alliance after the 1996 Lok Sabha elections when their alliance had bagged 11 out of 13 seats in Punjab. The Mayawati-led BSP had then won all three seats it had contested while the Akali Dal won eight out of 10 seats.

The alliance materialised after Sukhbir Badal announced last week that his party is open to tie-ups barring the Congress, BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

“We cannot align with these parties. We will form alliances and we are open to others. No chance to go with BJP at all,” Badal had said last week.

The deal comes two months after Badal promised to pick a person from the Dalit community as deputy chief minister if voted to power in the Assembly polls due next year.

Furthermore, The Tribune reported that SAD MP Naresh Gujral had reportedly held talks with BSP’s Mishra on Friday to formalise details. Other than that, there were a series of meetings between the leadership of both parties over past few weeks.

“It will be the beginning of a new socio-political movement not just in Punjab but also in the country where minorities and under-privileged classes will come together on one platform,” he said.

BSP-SAD combine may alter dynamics in Punjab polls

On paper, the demography under SAD and BSP’s combined traditional support group is a winning combination. SAD enjoys appeal amongst influential and affluent community of Jat Sikhs and the BSP is backed by Dalits, especially Ravidasis/Jatavs. These two groups have traditionally been at odds due to the skewed power dynamics in favour of Jats and the historical discrimination against Dalits.

However, the farm laws seem to have united the farming community against the BJP, irrespective of caste and other differences.

It is important to point out that Punjab has the highest proportion of Dalits in any state, at 32 percent, especially in the Doab belt, where BSP has been trusted to cinch seats for the coalition.

The ruling Congress on the other hand is dealing with infighting, the disenchantment resulting from a pandemic, and the lack of clarity on a regional leader. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, already 79-years-old, is facing bitter attacks from within his party and has subtly hinted in the past that he may not contest future polls (although he did retract these statements later and asserted he will fight polls).

AAP, meanwhile, was a new entrant which flourished on borrowed vote bank from traditional playes — Jatav votes from BSP, Jats from SAD and Hindu votes from the BJP. All will now depend on SAD and BSP’s capacity to win back lost supporters.

End of an era 

SAD was the oldest ally of the BJP dating back to 1992. Akali Dal used to be the senior partner in the alliance with the party contesting over 90 out of 117 seats in the state, while the rest went to BJP. In  Lok Sabha polls, SAD fielded candidates in 10 out of 13 seats while the BJP got three.

It walked out of the NDA over the farm laws issue last year ending a 23-year-long alliance.

SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who was a Union Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet  — and the only one from the Akali Dal — had resigned in protest over the bills, which have triggered farmers’ protest across the country, particularly in Punjab and Haryana.

“We cannot be a part of the NDA that brought these ordinances. We had been trying to attract the Centre’s attention over issue related to farm bills and its impact. But we were ignored…” SAD chief Badal had said.

“SAD has decided to pull out of BJP-led NDA alliance because of the Centre’s stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues,” the party had said in a statement at the time.

The three bills— the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and ”The Essential Commodities (Amendment)—seek to provide barrier-free trade for farmers’ produce outside notified farm mandis and empower farmers to enter into farming agreements with private players prior to production for sale of agri-produce. However, farmers have been waging an unrelenting battle against them since September, claiming that they unilaterally weaken the farmers’ position and force them to forge an alliance with big corporates where power optics will always favour the capitalists. They have also objected to the lack of a written guarantee about ensuring minimum support prices in all future transactions.

With inputs from PTI

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