With Sharad Yadav resigning from the top post as convener of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) following the JD(U)'s split with the BJP on Sunday, one name that has automatically come into reckoning for the post is that of Punjab chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patron Parkash Singh Badal.
The SAD is the oldest and most loyal ally of the BJP in the NDA, and in the past, too, 85-year-old Badal has been offered the post of convener. His image as a sober and seasoned politician could help him play the role of the much-needed peacemaker and unifier in the NDA, particularly after the polarisation that has emerged ever since Gujarat CM Narendra Modi was made the BJP's 2014 Lok Sabha campaign chief.
Plus, with minority vote being the key issue on which the JD(U) led by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar differed with BJP's projection of Modi, Badal's being from the minority Sikh community also goes in his favour.
It may be recalled that when Modi was given the post, effectively moving him closer to the nominal PM candidature by the BJP, Badal was the first and among the most vocal to felicitate him.
REFUSED IN PAST
However, in the past Badal has refused to accept the post of convener. "I think once again the BJP and other allies would make an offer to him (Badal) and he must take up the opportunity and look for a bigger role in national politics," said SAD secretary general and Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, "Our party will like for him (Badal) to take up the role." The view within the party at large is that when things are in good control in Punjab, Badal can venture out.
In fact, even when the NDA came into existence in 1997, Badal was offered the convener's post, then again when Geroge Fernandes stepped down and Sharad Yadav took over eventually. "I will again persuade him (Badal) to take up the responsibility once he returns from abroad," said Dhindsa, who remained a union minister during the NDA regime at the Centre.
Badal, who was not available for comment, is expected to come back from vacation on June 22. After In per the current scenario, there is every possibility that Badal could become NDA convener," said Manoranjan Kalia, a former BJP minister in Punjab. State BJP president Kamal Sharma echoed the view that "Badal is the grand old man of Indian politics", is a five-time Punjab CM and leads a minority community, "all the qualities and qualifications to lead the alliance".
With SAD contesting 10 of 13 seats in Punjab, and with the JD(U) out, the Akali party also becomes a nigger ally of the BJP. SAD's recent victory in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections means it is in a position to ask for more seats even in the Delhi assembly polls slated for November. Of the 70 seats, SAD is already staking claim to contesting 15.