The Ambala City Assembly seat in Haryana where Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP — allies in Punjab — will battle it out might just prove to be their Waterloo.
SAD, in alliance with the INLD in Haryana, is fielding candidates from Ambala City and Killianwali for the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha polls. At both places, its candidates will be in direct confrontation with the BJP.
Relations between the SAD and BJP deteriorated in Punjab after the Lok Sabha polls as leaders of both parties openly campaigned against one another, leading to mutual bitterness.
Although BJP is yet to announce its candidate for both seats, the probable candidate for Ambala cantonment, Anil Vij, has made his displeasure evident. “Though I will not be directly pitted against a SAD candidate, it is not proper for an NDA partner to oppose the BJP in Haryana,” he said.
Expressing concern over the SAD move, Vij said, “I have already asked party leaders in Delhi to ask the SAD leaders to either remain partners of the NDA and campaign in favour of the BJP or stay away from campaigning,” he said.
BJP’s Punjab incharge Shanta Kumar, who reportedly spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal about the issue, feels helpless.
“The SAD told us they would be supporting INLD in Haryana. They say they have old personal relations with the Chautalas and they cannot break the alliance,” he said.
“Even in the parliamentary polls, the SAD was with INLD in Haryana. It is an exception to the rule, but we have to accept it,” Shanta Kumar added.
Punjab BJP leaders, who have been assigned duties in Haryana and will begin campaigning from September 15, seem ready to attack. “We are going to take the SAD head-on in Ambala and Killianwali and defeat them. Elections are like war. We will have to forget that we are friends in Punjab,” said a local BJP leader.
The Haryana elections come at a time when SAD-BJP ties are not at their best. The BJP squarely blames the SAD for its debacle during the Lok Sabha polls in Amritsar. Also, many BJP leaders feel the alliance might prove to be the party’s bane in the upcoming Punjab polls. There are murmurs of the BJP planning to ‘spread’ its hold in the state, not just to strengthen its voice in the alliance for the remaining two-and-a-half years, but also to look at heading out alone in the next Assembly polls.
The SAD, meanwhile, remains confident of support from the BJP. “The stature of Prakash Singh Badal in NDA is too high to be ignored by BJP leaders, including the PM. Also, BJP’s tie up with SAD is the only secular credentials they have. Will they give that up?” questioned a senior SAD leader from Punjab.