Saturday, December 9, 2023

Punjab politics comes to a full circle with SAD-BSP alliance

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The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) party announced a coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ahead of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh 2022 elections. The alliance comes after a gap of 25 years after which the SAD forged ties with the BJP in 1997. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said BSP would contest 20 of the 117 seats in the polls. 

The paradigms in the Punjab politics shifted after the farm laws promulgation, branded anti-farmer by the Akalis, insisted on a pull-out from the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in September.  

Satish Chandra Mishra, the BSP general secretary, asserted that SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal had quit the post of Union minister of food processing industries while objecting to the farm laws which were aimed at “snatching” farmlands. “SAD-BSP alliance would ensure that the black farm legislation would not be implemented,” he added.

In their last elections together in 1996 LS polls, the alliance had bagged 11 out of the 13 seats, the Akalis won eight, and the BSP three.   

The alliance was in the air since December and the Akalis had stated that they were open to alliances except with the BJP, the Congress, and the AAP. 

The tie-up can be seen as a method to tap the Dalit votes in the border State with the highest percentage of Scheduled Caste population, mainly concentrated in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts. 

The seats are distributed as follows, eight from the Dalit-dominated Doaba region, seven from Malwa, and five from the Majha belt.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal offers sweets to Bahujan Samaj Party secretary general Satish Chandra Mishra during a joint press conference at the SAD head office in Chandigarh. Photograph: PTI Photo

What the leaders said?

The BSP supremo, Mayawati said that “new political and social initiative” will bring progress and prosperity in Punjab. Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal termed it as a “new day” in the state politics.

With the slogan ‘Soch Vikas Di, Nawen Punjab Di (A thinking of development, of new Punjab)’ ringing as the backdrop during the press conference at SAD headquarters in Chandigarh, Sukhbir said, “The relationship, which was formed 25 years ago by (SAD patron) Parkash Singh Badal and BSP founder Kanshi Ram has been revived.”

Satish Chandra Mishra said the tie-up “will continue forever” now. “This day will go in the annals of history. Each BSP worker supports and welcomes this alliance. SAD and BSP are pro-farmer parties, who have worked for the upliftment of Dalits, labourers, weaker sections… This alliance will form the next government,” he said. 

After the alliance was announced, Sukhbir and Mishra met Badal Sr, who talked to Mayawati over phone.

SAD stalwart and former CM Parkash Singh Badal described the alliance as “the beginning of a secular, federal democratic revolution in the state and the country for a total socio-economic and political revamp of polity”.

He said, “The alliance is a tribute to the composite vision of Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Ravidas and Bhagvan Balmiki and great saints and seers. That makes today the happiest day of my long political career as it marks the triumph of the concept of ‘Sarb Saanjhivalta’, ‘Sanman te Smajik Insaf’ (fraternity, equality and dignity) based on the ideal of ‘Sarbat da Bhala’ (welfare of all).

Sukhbir said the “thinking” and “mission” of both SAD and BSP was same, to work for the “under-privileged, downtrodden, labourers and the economically weaker sections of the society.”

Sukhbir Singh Badal lashed out at the Congress government, alleging that the welfare schemes for Dalits were “either discontinued or scaled down”.

Outcomes expected 

The alliance is likely to make the SAD the biggest opposition force in the State, unseating the AAP and its current role as the main opposition party since 2017. The confidence of Jatt Sikhs was gained by the SAD as testified in the 2019 LS polls. the SAD led in 23 seats and the AAP in just seven. 

However, the SAD continues to face an outcry from Sikh farm-workers in Punjab and the BSP’s survival in UP hangs by a thread. The precarious situation of the two parties may benefit both as they gear up for their respective states’ elections next year. 

The BSP aims to woo the votes from the State with the highest percentage of Dalits, standing at 32 per cent, of which Jatavs constitute a sizeable population and the SAD being the party dominated by Jat Sikhs, the alliance can be seen as an amalgamation of Panthic and Ambedkerite politics. Moreover, the first MP from the BSP was Harbhajan Lakha from the Phillaur constituency in 1980. The party founder, Kanshi Ram, also hailed from Punjab. 

In 2017, the BSP’s vote share stood at a meagre 1.5 per cent. Nevertheless, the 2019 LS polls revived the party to fetch them 3.5 per cent. Their performance in the three seats from where it contested was exceptional as the vote share was 20 per cent in Jalandhar, 13.5 per cent in Anandpur Sahib and 13 per cent in Hoshiarpur. 

The alliance has its fingers crossed as the elections draw near and the first post-farm laws alliance now has put all its eggs in two baskets. 

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Aiswarya Raj
Aiswarya Raj
Aiswarya Raj is a student journalist at Asian College of Journalism with a penchant for politics.

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