Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been allies for decades in Punjab, but for the first time they are likely to join forces for the Haryana assembly elections.
The SAD, which broke its ties with its traditional partner in Haryana, the Indian National Lok Dal, in 2016, is keen on fielding candidates in at least a dozen seats in the upcoming assembly elections.
SAD president and Punjab’s former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal met BJP working president J.P. Nadda Tuesday to finalise the seat-sharing formula between the two parties.
Akali Dal sources said the BJP was “agreeable” to sharing at least two seats, but the former was negotiating hard for more. The final decision is expected only after another round of meetings between Badal and Amit Shah, the BJP’s national president and Union Home Minister, before the end of the week.
The ruling BJP is extremely confident in Haryana, and looks to have no qualms in going it alone in the 21 October assembly elections. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is leading the BJP’s bid for re-election, has given the slogan of “Ab ki baar, 75 paar (This time, more than 75)” in the 90-seat assembly. In the 2014 elections, the BJP had won 47 seats on its own.
Akalis want a share of the pie
The parties have been allies since 1977, when the SAD fought the assembly polls with the BJP’s previous iteration, the Jana Sangh, which was then part of the Janata Party coalition.
In Punjab, over the last few elections, the BJP usually contests three of the 13 parliamentary seats and 23 of the 117 assembly seats, while the SAD contests the rest.
The SAD has thrown its weight behind BJP candidates in all 10 of Haryana’s Lok Sabha seats in the elections earlier this year, in which the BJP completed a clean sweep. But now in the assembly elections, the Akalis are expecting a share of the pie.
“Punjabis and Sikhs have a strong influence on at least 30 of the 90 seats in the state, spread across Sirsa, Fatehabad, Hisar, Kurukshetra, Ambala and Karnal,” said Sharanjit Singh Sotha, president of the SAD’s Haryana unit.
“We are preparing to contest on 30 seats, but the exact number of seats we’ll get to contest is yet to be decided.”
Sotha said in case the parties are unable to finalise an alliance, the SAD is not averse to fielding candidates separately on these 30 seats. A screening committee headed by SAD general secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder met ticket aspirants in Kurukshetra Monday.
The BJP is yet to declare its candidates in Haryana. Subhash Barala, the state BJP chief, told ThePrint that any decision on a tie-up with the SAD would be the prerogative of the central parliamentary board of the party. “Any decision it takes will be acceptable to us,” he said.
The SAD-INLD alliance
In Haryana, the Akalis had been allies of the INLD thanks to the strong personal friendship between the chiefs of the two parties — Parkash Singh Badal and Om Prakash Chautala, the former CMs of Punjab and Haryana respectively. They fought many elections together against the Congress and the BJP.
However, in March 2016, the two parties broke their alliance over the issue of distribution of irrigation water from the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, which has been a contentious issue between the two states for several years. The two families, however, continue to be close.
The INLD shared only two seats with the Akali Dal — Kalanwali and Ambala City. In the 2009 and 2014 assembly elections, the SAD won Kalanwali. At least two Sikh candidates fielded by INLD — from Pehowa and Fatehabad — also won.
Akali leaders have been campaigning in support of candidates fielded from Kalanwali, Rania, Ratia, Tohana, Guhla, Pehowa, Sadhaura, Assand, Shahbad, Ladwa, Yamunanagar, Jagadhri, Naraingarh and Mullana.