Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that is part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has decided to go it solo in the forthcoming assembly elections in Haryana after its lone MLA in the state, Balkaur Singh, joined the BJP.
The party had initially planned to ally with the BJP, for the first time in Haryana, but appears to have changed its mind hours after Singh joined the BJP.
The decision to contest alone was taken Thursday evening during a core committee meeting of the party held under the chairmanship of SAD president and MP Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Earlier on Thursday, at a special ceremony in New Delhi, Balkaur Singh, the SAD MLA from Kalanwali, joined the BJP along with Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt and former hockey captain Sandeep Singh in the presence of the party’s Haryana chief Subhash Barala.
“Poaching an MLA from an alliance partner is a clear violation of coalition dharma,” announced SAD secretary general Dr Daljit Singh Cheema following the core committee meeting. “It is unacceptable to us and we have now decided to field candidates on all the 90 seats in the coming elections.”
Defection casts shadow on ties
SAD contesting the assembly elections against the BJP in Haryana is bound to have an impact on the bonhomie between the two parties. Though the Akalis currently have only two MPs in the NDA pool, the personal equation of senior BJP leaders with SAD patron and former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is an old and valued one.
Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat, the SAD MP from Bathinda, is part of the Narendra Modi cabinet. Currently, she is supervising the Government of India’s efforts towards executing the Kartarpur Corridor project. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be present at its opening slated for November.
The Akalis are upset at the manner in which the BJP has dealt with them. “The BJP’s move to poach our MLA comes at a time when talks between Sukhbir and BJP’s acting president J.P. Nadda are still on regarding the division of seats for these elections,” Cheema said. “Today, however, a clear message has been sent to the SAD that BJP does not intend to share any seat with us in these elections.”
Sukhbir had met Nadda Tuesday. Sources had hinted that the BJP was considering giving at least two seats to SAD though the Akalis had staked claim to at least a dozen of them.
Fallout could spill over to Punjab
The resounding rebuff dealt by the BJP to SAD is also expected to have ramifications during the assembly elections in Punjab where the Akalis are the dominant ally. In Punjab, SAD had given 23 of the 117 assembly seats to BJP in the 2017 elections, and three of the 13 parliamentary seats in the 2019 polls.
The BJP won in just three assembly seats and two of the MP seats. “The BJP is in such a bad state in Punjab that even for the three seats in the recently concluded elections, they had to bring two candidates from outside the state — actor Sunny Deol for Gurdaspur and Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri for Amritsar,” said another SAD leader who was part of the core committee meeting. “SAD will now be forced to review its equation with the BJP in Punjab after what happened in Haryana.”
In Haryana, SAD has traditionally tied up with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). The INLD, which was the dominant ally, mostly shared only two seats with the Akali Dal — Kalanwali and Ambala City. In the 2009 and 2014 assembly elections, SAD won Kalanwali. The alliance broke down in 2016 over the issue of sharing of irrigation water between the two states from the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.
An SAD screening committee led by senior leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder had Monday received applications from candidates to contest on 30-odd seats in Haryana where Punjabis and Sikhs are a substantial vote-bank. These include Kalanwali, Rania, Ratia, Tohana, Guhla, Pehowa, Sadhaura, Assand, Shahbad, Ladwa, Yamunanagar, Jagadhri, Naraingarh and Mullana.