The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) faces an uphill task wooing Sikh voters in the Delhi assembly polls, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress posing a strong challenge.
While the AAP has star campaigners such as Supreme Court lawyer Harvinder Singh Phoolka and former journalist Jarnail Singh, both known for their strong stance for justice to the 1984 riots victims, the Congress has former minister Arvinder Singh Lovely as the president of its Delhi unit.
The AAP, which had four Sikhs among its MLAs, has pitted Jarnail, who shot into the limelight when he hurled a show at then Union minister P Chidambaram in 2009, against the SAD from Rajouri Garden, a seat won by the Akalis in the December 2013 assembly polls.
The AAP has another Jarnail Singh, a sitting MLA who is out to retain his Tilak Nagar seat. Talking to HT, he said, “The AAP is a secular party that has won the hearts of the people of Delhi, overcoming the barriers of communalism. The Sikhs know that it was the then AAP government which had sought the formation of a special investigation team (SIT) to look into all cases of the 1984 riots.”
The sitting MLA added, “The Akali-BJP coalition has failed to take the riots cases to their logical conclusion,” pointing out that the BJP-led NDA government recently gave a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to only riot-hit 17 families, with an eye on the elections.
The strained relations between the SAD and the BJP – ruling alliance partners in Punjab – are likely to cast a shadow on the February 7 Delhi polls.
The SAD’s Delhi unit chief, Manjit Singh GK, along with party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral, had called upon Union minister Arun Jaitley last week so as to prepare the ground for formal talks on seat-sharing.
“Jaitleyji assured us that the 2013 arrangement (two SAD candidates on the party symbol) would continue,” GK told HT.
“Now, we are looking forward to a formal meeting in a day or two,” he added.
In the 2013 polls, the SAD had contested two seats on its own symbol (scales). Manjinder Singh Sirsa had won from Rajouri Garden, while Shyam Sharma lost the Hari Nagar seat to the AAP’s Jagdeep Singh. Two Akalis -- Harmeet Singh (Kalkaji) and Jatinder Singh Shanty (Shahdara) -- had contested on the BJP symbol and won their seats.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal had on Monday presided over a meeting of its party cadres in Delhi, asking them to gear up for winning all four seats this time, GK added.
Former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Paramjit Singh Sarna, whose party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi), was routed in the 2013 DSGMC elections by the Badals’ SAD, is seeking to turn the tables.
When contacted, Sarna said his party would support candidates “on merit basis”.
He is in favour of the Congress’ Lovely and the AAP’s Sikh candidates.
“Ours is a religious organisation, so we will look to back candidates who can be beneficial for the Sikh community,” he said, adding that for his party, the AAP was not only about Jarnail Singh but also Arvind Kejriwal, who had made efforts to get justice for victims of the 1984 riots.