Updated: June 26, 2021 9:05:43 pm
As the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress strive to put their house in order before the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has decided to get a jumpstart on its rivals and has started distributing tickets, besides launching its election campaign.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) so far has already announced its names of candidates from at least six seats in the state, three of which are in Majha. The party has also directed many probable candidates, whose names have not been officially announced yet, to start campaigning in their areas.
Two times MLA, Amarpal Singh Ajnala alias Bony Ajnala, has been awarded the ticket from Ajnala. Interestingly, Amarpal Ajnala had been defeated from the Ajnala seat in 2017, prompting him to rebel and quit the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) a year later. In 2020, Amarpal made a comeback to the party, along with his father and senior leader Rattan Singh Ajnala.
Gulzar Singh Ranike and Virsa Singh Valtoha have been given tickets from Attari and Khemkaran constituencies, respectively, seats that they had lost in 2017.
Sitting MLA NK Sharma will be the party’s candidate from Dera Bassi again. Janmeja Singh Sekhon, who lost from the Maur constituency in Bathinda in 2017, has been named to contest the Zira assembly segment in Ferozpur.
Party president Sukhbir Singh Badal will contest from Jalalabad, a seat that the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) had lost after the 2019 byelection to the Congress.
Apart from the named candidates, many leaders have been unofficially sounded out and told to start campaigning in their respective areas from where they will be given tickets.
Nothing to lose
With no tussle over their chief ministerial candidate or squabbles over final say in ticket distribution, the SAD(B) is also hoping to benefit and capture the Dalit votes in the state after having already announced an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) eight months before the elections.
“There is nothing to lose for the party in the state. We are at a point where we will only gain. The way Congress MLAs and ministers have turned against Captain Amarinder Singh shows that they will not be in a position to capture votes in the state. It was the SAD which constructed roads and other infrastructure even in the border areas of Majha and the people there recognise that and want to vote for us,” said a party leader.
The Shiromani Akali Dal government had turned highly unpopular in Punjab after the 2015 sacrilege incident and managed only 15 seats, in an Assembly of 117, with a 25.3 per cent vote share in the 2017 Assembly polls.
The party, however, improved its performance in the 2019 parliament elections and cornered 27.5 per cent of all votes polled then. The party leaders now claim that the fresh alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has come as a shot in the arm for them now.
Sources said that, unlike the Bharatiya Janta Party, it would be easy for the SAD to deal with BSP. Sukhbir Singh Badal is known for his methods of vote management and the party is hoping to make more out of the alliance than what BSP could do on its own.
The BSP could be instrumental for the SAD, especially in Doaba, where the party has won only five out of 23 seats in its previous alliance with the BJP.
“BSP is better than the BJP in every aspect when it comes to Doaba. We have a much better prospect now. Congress is facing anti-incumbency across the state. The SAD, on the other hand, is a strong and reliable alternative” said a SAD leader.
Eye on Congress infighting
Prodded about the party’s decision to hand out some tickets more than eight months before the polls , SAD spokesman and former MLA, Virsa Singh Valtoha, said, “Those who are under the impression that SAD is not a contender, actually don’t understand the politics of Punjab. There is an impression that the sacrilege incident hurt SAD the most. However, in reality, it is the false promises of the Congress party of debt waiver and free smartphones which will hurt them the most. The Congress leaders are exposing each other now. On one side Captain Amarinder Singh has prepared dossiers of corruption against his own MLAs, on the other, his ministers and MLAs are accusing the Chief Minister of corruption. The Congress needs to admit that it had kept no promises that the party made before the 2017 polls. This is precisely why the Congress high command has asked the Punjab CM to do something in the last six months at least.”
Valtoha added that the SAD-BJP government was defamed with fake allegations of sacrilege and drug smuggling as well as for making fake promises in 2017. “The Congress government has in the last five years and they couldn’t prove a single allegation. Now people know that we were the victims of fake propaganda. Congress used all the government machinery and implicated our leadership in false cases. But their attempts failed in courts. The Congress government has defamed itself and Its own leaders are now saying that their government is corrupt, he said.
He added, “So why would people vote for the Congress? SAD is the more tested choice. The Aam Adami Party too is a bubble and it has already busted. The AAP has zero presence in Majha and Doaba. They have won very few seats on Malwa in 2017. The SAD is the only party at present that has a report card of 10-year rule. We are not embarrassed. We are proud of the development work that we carried out.”
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