The Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) claims Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is an ally. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), meanwhile, is holding talks with it to form an alliance. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP seems to have emerged as the most sought after political outfit by the parties seeking to form a third front in Punjab. This, despite the fact that the BSP has never won any Lok Sabha seat from Punjab after 1992. Randhir Singh Beniwal, BSP in-charge, Punjab and Chandigarh, tells The Indian Express why they are the most sought in Punjab when it comes to forming an alliance.
AAP says that they are in talks with the BSP while the PDA claims that you are already part of the alliance. Are you planning to switch the alliance partners?
We had two rounds of discussion with the AAP regarding an alliance in Punjab, but things did not reach any conclusion and hence there are no plans to enter into a tie-up with that party. I am really surprised that AAP leaders such as Bhagwant Mann and Harpal Singh Cheema are issuing statements every second day that they are in talks with the BSP. We have no intimation even from Behenji (BSP chief Mayawati) in this connection. However, a formal alliance with the PDA too is yet to happen. But we are on the same page as Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP), Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), SAD (Taksali) and Punjab Manch. We are about to finalise a date for the formal launch of PDA.
There was some rift within the PDA over seat sharing. You had difference of opinion with SAD (Taksali) over Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat?
Only minor difference of opinion was there and it has been sorted out. We had asked for five seats – Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha constituencies – but we are ready to settle for four. Hence, there is no rift. We will be fielding candidates in areas we consider as strong. Our candidates will bring about a change in Punjab’s political scene.
BSP candidates don’t have a great win record in Punjab, but even then at least two political parties are vying for an alliance with your party.
Our graph has improved considerably over the years. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, we did not perform well and our vote share was just about 1.5% in Punjab. However in the block samiti and zila parishad polls held last year, we had 9% vote share (in rural polls). This is a significant improvement. We had fielded 91 candidates in Doaba (BSP’s stronghold) for block samiti polls and won 48 of them. In Panchayat polls, 150 of our sarpanches won from Doaba alone. So we have a strong say in rural as well as urban areas now. We have 4-5 active workers at each of the 23,400 booths in Punjab and hence we are a tough competition for the rivals.
How has your party performed in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls in Punjab so far?
We had an alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal in late 70s. We had three MPs at that time and we had also won a few Vidhan Sabha seats. Apart from this, in 1992-1996 general elections, two of our candidates – Mohan Singh Falianwala and (party founder) Kanshi Ram won from Ferozepur and Hoshiapur, respectively.
Do you have any plans for an alliance with any of the major political parties in Punjab?
We were open for a tie up with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), provided they end their ties with the BJP. This is also in favour of Punjab voters as BJP is anti-Dalit and we cannot have an alliance with anyone who is supporting the BJP. Congress’s policies don’t match with us, we never had an alliance with them in Punjab. Talks with the AAP failed. We are in talks with the PDA and will soon announce formally our alliance.
How are you rating your party this Lok Sabha elections?
BSP holds importance in Punjab as SC vote bank in this area is about 38%. Apart from this, the party is open to welfare of all groups. This time, we will contest to win.