For the first time, the new Punjab assembly will have a two-pronged Opposition with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sharing the benches with their bête noir, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Since the AAP and its allies have four seats more than SAD-BJP alliance, the joint 40-member Opposition will be led by an AAP leader. This is the first time since 1997 that Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal will not be the leader of the Opposition in the assembly.
A race of sorts is expected among the AAP winners for the post. The top contenders are obvious: Harinder Singh Phoolka, senior lawyer who won from Dakha, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a former Congress man who won from Bholath and journalist-turned-politician Kanwar Sandhu (Kharar). The other winners of the party are either too inexperienced or young to hold the position.
The AAP winners, most of who are debutants, will lend a new colour to the Opposition benches which have largely seen Congress and Akalis one after the other. Prof Baljinder Kaur, the teacher who won from Talwandi Sabo, Rupinder Kaur Ruby, a lawyer from Bathinda Rural, social activist Kultar Singh Sandhwan from Kotkapura, businessman Aman Arora from Sunam, Nazar Singh Manshahia (Mansa) of AAP’s kisan wing have proved their worth to the party and are quick learners.
The party will also have on its side Lok Insaaf Party’s Bains brothers — Simarjeet Singh and Balwinder Singh — who won from Ludhiana. The two as independent MLAs in the outgoing assembly are known for their incessant capacity to protest and cornering the treasury benches on tricky issues of corruption. With 20 AAP MLAs on their side, the two are bound to lead the charge in the coming assembly sessions.
The SAD-BJP, on the other hand, has lost most of its lung power in the elections. With Virsa Singh Valtoha, Sikander Singh Maluka, Daljit Singh Cheema, Surjit Singh Jayani now in the losers’ gallery, the assembly’s loud voices which rose to the Badals defence at the drop of a hat will be missing.
Not much can be expected of Pawan Tinu (Adampur), Ajit Singh Kohar (Shahkot), Som Prakash (Phagwara), Dinesh Singh (Sujanpur), who though a part of the winning 15 of the SAD are not known for bringing the House down. It would be left to CM Parkash Singh Badal (Lambi), son Sukhbir Singh Badal (Jalalabad) and Birkam Majithia (Majitha) to ensure that the Akali presence is felt in the assembly.
With the two Opposition parties almost hating one another, not much coordination is expected over issues to keeping the Congress on its toes but the two parties could find common ground on Panthic issues, the construction of the SYL Canal, farmers and welfare schemes.