Chandigarh: Members of the newly-created Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA), chiefly a conglomeration of rebels from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), will contest the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab on a common poll symbol.
The alliance was created in December with the coming together of rebel AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Punjab Ekta Party (PEP), rebel SAD MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura’s SAD (Taksali), the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) and suspended AAP MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi’s Punjab Manch.
The PEP, the SAD (Taksali) and Punjab Manch have applied to the Election Commission for registration of their parties while the LIP is already registered and has its own symbol.
“Once the new parties are registered they will be given their own individual election symbols. We will be asking the commission for a common symbol for the parties in PDA,” Khaira, who heads the PDA, told ThePrint.
He said the BSP too is a part of the PDA but since it is a national party, it will contest the elections on its own symbol.
If the Election Commission agrees to the PDA’s request, this will be the first time that candidates of separately registered parties will be contesting elections on a common symbol.
This, however, is not the first time that a common front has been created in Punjab. In 2012, ahead of the assembly polls, Manpreet Singh Badal, now the finance minister of Punjab and then a SAD rebel, had created the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and went on to ally with the CPI and CPI(M) and the SAD (Longowal) under the common umbrella of “Sanjha Morcha”. The morcha managed to secure almost 6 per cent votes in the assembly polls.
A motley crew
While the PDA is comprised mainly of rebels, one of the parties has already had electoral success.
The LIP, created by SAD rebels, the Bains brothers, in 2016 had contested five seats in the 2017 assembly polls in alliance with AAP. It won two — the brothers Balwinder Singh Bains and Simerjeet Singh Bains won their seats. The LIP broke its alliance with AAP in March 2018 after party president and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologised to SAD leader, former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, for accusing Majithia of being involved in Punjab’s drug trade.
Khaira created the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) in early January with six AAP rebel MLAs in tow. He said his party would be a Punjab-centric regional party. Khaira had in August last year revolted against the AAP after he was removed as the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly. He along with six MLAs began working independently of the party’s Delhi leadership. Khaira and journalist-turned-politician, Kanwar Sandhu, who is also the AAP MLA from Kharar, were suspended by the party in November for anti-party activities. Khaira later quit AAP.
The SAD (Taksali) was created in December by three expelled SAD leaders: Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, former cabinet minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan and former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala. All three are Akali stalwarts from the Majha region. They were expelled for dissent against SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Majithia. They had criticised the Badals for their role in pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and the incidents of sacrilege in 2015, which led to police firing on protesting Sikhs that left two dead.
The Punjab Manch was created in March 2018 by suspended AAP MP from Patiala Dr Dharamvira Gandhi. He too had parted ways from the AAP over its centralising of powers and the “Delhi high command” culture. He said the Manch stood for “fully democratising state administration and building a democratic society at large”.
Although the state leaders of the BSP had held a joint presser with Khaira in December when PDA was announced, AAP is claiming that it is in talks with BSP over an alliance. The PDA has already announced support for BSP supremo Mayawati as PM candidate. There is, however, still no clarity of which party the BSP will ally with in Punjab.