Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), which has fielded 86 candidates for the February 20 Assembly polls, might have failed to win a single seat, but it did manage to boost its vote share by almost 2.5% per cent.
From a high of winning six of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in 1989, to being reduced to a vote share of 0.03% — much lower than NOTA’s 0.7% — in 2017, SAD (Amritsar) scripted a turnaround by polling 2.49% votes this time by securing more than 3.85 lakh votes across the state.
With SGPC polls due for some time now, SAD (Amritsar) could pose a challenge for Shiromani Akali Dal (Babal).
Sources said that SAD(A) has been trying to capture SGPC for a long time and it could be its best chance under the given circumstances.
Headed by former IPS officer and former MP Simranjit Singh Mann, SAD (Amritsar) is the only party that contests elections with a demand for Khalistan. Dal Khalsa and some other separatists parties, who used to contest elections, no longer do that.
Dal Khalsa leader Kanwar Pal Singh said, “The increase in the vote share of SAD (Amritsar) has raised the hopes of all the panthic bodies who want to remove Baddals from the SGPC. Dal Khalsa and other Sikh bodies including SAD(Amristsar) had come together to contest SGPC elections in past too and we can do in in future also. The SGPC elections are due and with such a humiliating defeat for SAD, there is no justification for further postponing SGPC elections. Badals have lost the faith of the people. I am sure that Badals won’t like SGPC election at this time, but it is a good opportunity for all the pantic bodies to free SGPC from Badals.”
Party candidates Simranjit Singh Mann and Gurjant Singh Kattu finished second on Amargarh and Mehak Kalan seats, respectively. Five party candidates polled more than 10,000 and five got more than 5,000 votes.
Untimely death of actor and activist Deep Sidhu in car accident few days before voting day created a sympathy wave for the party as he was campaigning for party candidate, Simranjit Singh Mann.
SAD(A) had won six parliamentary seats in Punjab and its present president Mann had won election from jail in 1989. In 1992 Assembly elections later, it was seen as a major player but then Sikh militants had given call of boycott making it pull out of the race.
Since 1989, party’s vote bank has decreased drastically. It was in 1999 when party last managed to send Simranjit Singh Mann to Parliament. Mann had then defeated former CM Surjit Singh Barnala with a margin of 8,600 votes. He had managed to secure little more than 48,000 votes from Sangrur in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
While SAD (Amritsar) may struggle to maintain this vote share with many of the opinion that the rise is due to sympathy over Deep Sidhu’s death, the development may give some reason to Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) to worry.