Akalis face high expectations, tough challenge in Delhi polls

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jan 26, 2015 13:21 IST

The four Akali candidates in Delhi assembly elections — one on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) symbol and three on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘lotus’ — are all facing a tough challenge, particularly from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The toughest battle is for Rajouri Garden sitting MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the one contesting on the SAD symbol of ‘weighing scales’, who is being challenged by AAP’s Jarnail Singh, a former journalist who had made headlinesd fame in 2009 when he hurled a shoe at the then home minister P Chidambaram over the 1984 riots. Sirsa, who has remained councillor of the area, enjoys a hold in the Punjabi Bagh area; but Jarnail has generated hope with his backing of the riot victims’ cause. Expectations from Akali candidates are particularly high as in the previous assembly polls, they had won three of the four seats allotted to them.

In Hari Nagar, Akali veteran Avtar Singh Hit is facing AAP’s sitting MLA Jagdeep Singh. Hit, who is a former president of the Delhi unit of SAD and also of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), has not won any election in Delhi. He lost in 2008 polls and was not the candidate in the 2013 elections.

The third Akali in fray, Harmeet Singh Kalka, is the sitting MLA from Kalkaji. He faces AAP’s Avtar Singh Kalka, a former member of the DSGMC. Harmeet faces questions over not having disbursed the Rs 4 crore development fund received during his tenure.

From Shahadra, Jatinder Pal Singh Shanty is facing opposition from within his family, with his sister Preeti, a councillor who enjoys hold in the area, contesting as an independent candidate to spoil his prospects due to a family feud.“No doubt the fight is very tough but we will pull through on all four constituencies,” claimed SAD Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujaral.

Amid this, the SAD is also seeing the positive glimmer of its alliance with the BJP, which had been shaky lately in Punjab. Both parties were on opposing sides in the Haryana polls, and the BJP was seen as trying to shift the onus of the drug menace to the SAD after a below-par show in Punjab in the LS polls.

There were murmurs that the BJP could go it alone, especially after the saffron broke its alliances before polls in Haryana and Maharashtra. About the Delhi polls, SAD Delhi unit president Manjit Singh GK said, “This has proved that BJP can’t go without the SAD.” He added that the alliance would “continue to be harmonious”.

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