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Explained: Why SAD is counting on its alliance with BSP for a comeback

The Shiromani Akali Dal has formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections. Here's why SAD is pinning its hopes on the BSP after its break up with the BJP.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal offers sweets to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Secretary General Satish Chandra Mishra during a joint press conference at the SAD head office in Chandigarh, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (PTI Photo)

After being relegated to its worst tally of 15 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly in the last election, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) hopes that its alliance with the BSP can help it stage in comeback in the state polls next years. The Indian Express explains why the Akali Dal is pinning its hopes on this new alliance after its break up with the BJP.

How has the BSP performed in Punjab Assembly elections in the past?

In 2017 Assembly elections, the BSP contested on 111 seats and barring former party president of BSP Punjab unit at that time, Avtar Singh Karimpuri, all 110 candidates ended up forfeiting their security deposits. Though he managed to save his security deposit, Karimpuri finished fourth in the Phillaur (SC) constituency. The BSP had a vote share of 1.59 per cent on the seats it contested. The BJP which contested on 23 seats in alliance with SAD, won on three and had a vote share of 29.95 per cent in seats it contested. In the 2012 Assembly elections, BSP contested on all 117 seats, won none with 109 of the party candidates forfeiting their security deposits.

At 4.3 per cent, the vote share of BSP was, however, better than 2017. In 2007 Assembly elections, BSP’s vote share was 4.17 per cent with 113 of 115 candidates party fielded losing their security deposits. In 2002 elections, BSP’s vote share was 6.61 per cent and in 1997 it was 13.28 per cent. Last time, it was in 1997 elections that an MLA, Shingara Ram Sahungara, was elected to Punjab Vidhan Sabha on BSP ticket from Garhshankar seat when party contested 67 seats and 45 of its candidates losing security deposit. Despite party’s founder Kanshi Ram hailing from the state, the BSP in more than two decades now has not been able to create a niche for itself, despite nearly 32 per cent of the Dalit population in the state.

The Dalit voters have not voted for BSP candidates en masse, the results of elections for over past two decades reveal.

Why has then SAD decided to have an alliance with the BSP?

SAD had an alliance with BSP in 1996 Lok Sabha elections where it won 11 of the 13 seats. That year, SAD won on eight out of nine seats it contested on and BSP won on three of the four seats. SAD president Sukhbir Badal and BSP general secretary Satish Mishra while announcing the alliance on Saturday invoked the “historic” performance of the alliance in 1996. And as per a senior Akali leader, the SAD immediately after parting ways with BJP last, had started to work to have a truck with BSP in 2022 elections.

The leader said that the party got a survey spanning around two months done by an agency and inputs from local Akali leaders were also taken before it was decided to have pact with the BSP.

“In at least twenty seats in 2017 elections, SAD candidates lost by less than 1,000 votes. And in those constituencies, there are BSP supporters between 2,500 to 10,000. The number goes up to 40,000 BSP supporters in Doaba strongholds of Dalits. Had we had a truck with BSP, the results of 2017 elections would have been different despite falsely propagated narrative against the party on the issues like sacrilege. At least, SAD would have emerged as a strong opposition,” said the SAD leader.

Secondly, after snapping ties with the BJP, the SAD required an alliance partner. Out of the total 20 seats the BSP will contest on, 12 are the ones where BJP used to contest in partnership with SAD. In a seat sharing arrangement, SAD used to contest on 94 seats and BJP on 23.

SAD-BSP alliance

How did things unfold in the run up to formal announcement of SAD-BSP alliance?

On the 130th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar in April, Sukhbir Badal announced in Jalandhar that “once the SAD forms the government, the deputy CM will be from the Dalit ‘bhaichara’”. Sukhbir had also announced to establish a university in Ambedkar’s name in the Doaba region, which has a large Dalit population concentrated in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala.

BJP national general secretary reacted by saying that if BJP comes to power, there would be Dalit CM in Punjab.

Castigating the remarks of Sukhbir and Chugh as “nothing but poll optics” Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, during a virtual function to mark Ambedkar Jayanti, had said that the state government will spend at least 30 per cent of funds under all government schemes for the welfare of the state’s SC population.

What is the SAD working on next?

As per a senior SAD leader, the Akali Dal is also having parleys with Communist Party of India (CPI) and CPI (Marxist) to stitch an alliance. The party leader said if an alliance is worked out with CPI and CPI (M), it would give mean further support in many constituencies. “There are people associated with departments like Punjab State Power Corporation Limited, teachers, anganwari workers, MGNREGA workers and brickkilns employees who owe affiliation to Leftist parties in good numbers. Talks are on with the state and central leadership of both Left parties and if it takes shape, it will turn out to be a very formidable alliance,” said the SAD leader.

Punjab CPI secretary Bant Singh Brar said, “Politically activities are going on..It is good that SAD parted ways with the BJP.”

CPI (M) Punjab secretary Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon added, “The party committee at state level and centre level would take a call after discussions. No individual can take any decision in our party. If someone approaches us, we cannot say no. The party will take a call on an alliance with any party which would safeguard the principle of secularism and is against communalism. Our party also focuses on education, problem of un-employment and corruption. In 1967, when first non-Congress government was formed in Punjab headed by Chief Minister Justice Gurnam Singh (retd), Communist leader Harkishan Singh Surjit played a very important role in formation of that government as convenor.”

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