4 reasons SAD-BJP alliance will flop in 2017 Punjab polls

Kumar Shakti Shekhar
Kumar Shakti ShekharFeb 10, 2016 | 18:48

4 reasons SAD-BJP alliance will flop in 2017 Punjab polls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders met in the national capital on February 9 to discuss their alliance and the 2017 Punjab Assembly election. It is said, "united we stand, divided we fall", but it apparently is the other way round for the BJP-SAD combine in Punjab. Here are four reasons why it stands a slim chance of retaining power in the next year's Assembly polls:

1. Anti-incumbency

The BJP-SAD government, which has been ruling Punjab for almost nine years now, is facing a strong anti-incumbency sentiment. The Congress accuses chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal of treating the state as their "own personal fiefdom" resulting in complete breakdown of law and order.

The Congress is seen fanning the outrage against the SAD over a series of desecration incidents of the Guru Granth Sahib in Tarn Taran district and other parts of the state. The Congress MLA from Khadoor Sahib Assembly resigned in November 2015 in protest against the incidents of sacrilege, forcing a bypoll in the constituency. To further highlight the issue, the Congress has decided to boycott the by-election sche duled to be held on February 13.

2. Squabble between BJP and SAD leaders

There is major discontentment in a section of the BJP over alliance with the SAD. It is against the continuance of the alliance for the 2017 Assembly election. BJP's dissident MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who is cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife, has been one of those who are vocal against the party's alliance with the SAD. Continuing her diatribe, she said on February 10, "It doesn't make sense to campaign together (BJP-SAD) when we do not get along with each other... Punjab BJP workers need to be taken in loop by central leadership, these people have been complaining for four years.

"Pehli baar to insaan galti kar leta hai, ab hamein pata hai to hum galti repeat nahi karenge (one commits mistake for the first time, but when we know now we will not repeat it)," she said on SAD-BJP campaigning together.

Earlier, she has gone to the extent of strongly advocating a divorce between the SAD and the BJP and exhorting the people to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) if the alliance continued till the Assembly polls. If the alliance continues, a large number of BJP workers may not work for the party.

On the other hand, Navjot Singh Sidhu, one of the most prominent faces in the Punjab unit of the BJP, has been sulking before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The former three-time MP from Amritsar was replaced by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley. An upset Sidhu did not campaign even for a single day in Amritsar and Jaitley lost to Capt Amarinder Singh of the Congress.

Like Shatrughan Sinha in Bihar, Sidhu has been sidelined by the BJP in Punjab. This may prove dear for the BJP and its alliance. There are speculations of Sindhu joining the AAP. If this happens, it will be a strong jolt to the SAD-BJP alliance and a big boost to the AAP, which is in search of a local prominent leader.

3. AAP surge

Punjab has seen a considerable rise in the AAP's popularity since the last Lok Sabha elections. The party won four Lok Sabha seats in its debut contest in the state. The AAP has emerged as a major force to reckon with and this was evident from the tremendous response which Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal received in the rally at historic Maghi Mela in Muktsar on January 14. In fact, the rallies of the BJP-SAD and the Congress were pale as compared with the one of Kejriwal.

The youth of Punjab have got attracted towards Kejriwal, while the people of the state, like those in Delhi, may toy with the idea of bringing in the AAP after decades of Congress and SAD governments alternately, except in 2012 when the latter broke that jinx to retain power for two consecutive terms.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has been calling the AAP a party of "topiwalas" - a jibe to indicate that it does not have base in the state. But contrary to what Sukhbir believes, the AAP may emerge as a dark horse and prove him wrong at the hustings.

However, the AAP is facing its own set of problems. The party has split supporters of Kejriwal and former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The party has suspended two of its four MPs - Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa. In most likelihood, both Yadav and Bhushan will campaign alongwith the suspended MPs against the AAP candidates, harming the chances of Kejriwal's party.

A poster, showing Kejriwal’s photo alongside slain Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has kicked off a row in the state. The poster, which has gone viral on the social media, appeals to the people to celebrate Bhindranwale's  birthday on February 12 in the state’s gurdwaras. Both the SAD and the Congress have condemned the AAP accusing it of encouraging Naxals, separatists and radicals, and misleading the youth. On its part, the AAP has denied any role in the bringing out of the posters.

The AAP also does not have a prominent leader who can match the popularity, leadership skills and charisma of Capt Amarinder Singh or the Badals.

The poster featuring Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders exhorting people to celebrate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's birthday.

4. Stronger Congress

The Congress has grown in strength ever since Capt Amarinder Singh was appointed as the chief of party's state unit in November 2015. The party got a shot in its arm when Parkash Singh Badal's estranged nephew Manpreet Badal merged his People's Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress. With Prashant Kishor, the political adviser to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, likely to extend a helping hand to the Congress, the going for the SAD-BJP combine will become tougher.

The BJP has some chances of performing better in the 2017 Assembly elections only if it breaks its alliance with the SAD. However, that will not happen because SAD is the strongest, oldest and most reliable alliance partner of the BJP, standing by it in the thick and thin of political roller-coaster. After meeting BJP president Amit Shah on February 9, Sukhbir said, "The Akali Dal and BJP are like one party and would not just contest the next election together but also elections for the next 20 years". However, together they perhaps also stand to lose in 2017.

Last updated: February 10, 2016 | 18:48
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