Politics can make strange friends. The Congress, for once, was worried at the “falling stock” of the ruling Akali-BJP alliance in Punjab.
The ground reports from party leaders, workers and poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), whose volunteers and team members have fanned across the state, were suggesting that the ruling alliance was “losing ground” in Malwa and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was gaining.
In such a scenario, the open declaration of support by Sirsa based Dera Sacha Sauda to the ruling combine for February 4 polls, has come as a relief to the Congress. Its strategists see fall in SAD graph as directly proportional to rise in that of the AAP in Malwa, mainly districts in its south. It is here that the Sirsa based dera too has its sway.
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh played it safe on how will the dera announcement impact Congress prospects. “The dera has its support base in south Malwa districts where our fight is with the AAP,” he told HT.
In party’s calculations, the dera vote to the SAD-BJP would on one hand neutralise the gains of the AAP in Malwa and on the other, cut the dera vote of the AAP and Sikh vote of the SAD.
The dera prop also works as a double-edged sword in Punjab polls. While it consolidates the Dalit votes in favour of one, it angers Sikh hardliners and moderates alike, prompting them to throw their lot behind the other parties.
Hoping to get backing of moderate Sikhs and Hindus, both the Congress and Akalis have been creating the perception that Sikh hardliners are rooting for the AAP.
As the poll battle turns to Sikhs versus dera and hardliners versus moderate Sikhs, the Congress believes it stands to gain from “gains and losses” of its two political rivals. “Panthic voters who have been loyal to the Akali Dal for generations were going for the AAP and not Congress. The more the SAD slips, the AAP fills up the space. So, the dera verdict suits us as it cuts both ways,” party insiders said.