CHANDIGARH: All is not well between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Akali Dal's decision not to contest the Delhi assembly elections citing differences with the BJP on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is likely to have ramifications in Punjab ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.
Some saffron party leaders in the state have suggested that they should break the two-decade-old alliance with the SAD and fight the polls on their own. At the coronation ceremony of the newly-appointed Punjab BJP unit president, Ashwini Sharma, in Jalandhar recently, former Punjab Transport Minister and senior BJP leader Master Mohan Lal said that the saffron party should contest the 2022 assembly polls in the state alone.
"We should aim for the 2022 assembly elections and fight them alone. Be it the Taksalis or non-Taksali Akalis, we should not ally with them. Why are we at the mercy of the Akalis? Why not show some strength and form a BJP government on our own in the state," he said. Later, he added that it was for the party to decide whether to continue the alliance with the SAD or not but he personally believed that the BJP should independently contest the elections.
Punjab BJP leaders have given feedback to the party high command that the Badals have lost their base among Sikhs and any alliance with them would be suicidal for the party. BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh said that the party has a strong organisation in the state but a decision on alliances is taken by the parliamentary board.
Rebel Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the party's decision not to contest the Delhi assembly election over the amended citizenship law was an excuse, claiming that it knew it would not win any seat.
"It (not contesting Delhi polls over CAA issue) is just an excuse. They had voted for the CAA in Parliament. They knew that they are not going to win and that's why they decided not to contest Delhi polls. Nobody had stopped them to contest election alone. If they claim they have a following among Sikh voters, then why don't they contest," he said.
Taking a dig, senior Congress leader and Punjab Cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that the SAD-BJP alliance has come to an end as the saffron party had put the Akalis in their place by not even giving them a single seat in the Delhi polls.
SAD chief spokesman, Daljeet Singh Cheema, however, said, "Our alliance with the BJP is firm and everlasting in Punjab.’’
During the Haryana assembly election last year, the SAD and BJP did not have an alliance though the Akalis wanted it. The saffron party also inducted the lone SAD MLA in the state into their party prompting SAD President Sukhbir Badal to remind the BJP of the dignity of the alliance.
A worrying factor for the SAD is the dissent within the party with rebel leaders and splinter groups recently putting a united front in Delhi against the first family of the party -- the Badals -- in order to rid the party of their control. All the rebel leaders have been questioning the leadership and functioning of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. They say the party's core vote slipped away from it as the Bargari sacrilege and Behabal Kalan firing incidents in 2015 were not addressed properly.