The stakes for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the Delhi assembly elctions are high as the results will have an impact on Punjab politics.
The SAD is contesting these polls in coalition with the BJP. The two have an alliance in Punjab and the saffron party would like the Akalis to win all four seats at a time when it is feeling tremendous pressure from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AAP, which is fast gaining ground in the national capital, has already made the poll contest two-sided, along with the BJP-SAD alliance, pushing back the Congress. The AAP is also expected to pose a challenge to the SAD-BJP coalition in Punjab in the forthcoming electoral battles.
“With things building up in our favour in Delhi, it is likely that we will also contest the civic body polls in Punjab,” said an AAP MP from Punjab, on condition of anonymity. This will increase worries of the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab with the ensuing local body polls likely to take place after February 19.
Akali cadres and leaders from Punjab are working on the four seats the party is contesting besides on the seats which have Punjabi and Sikh population. A large number of AAP workers and activists from the state are also working for their party.
“In the previous assembly polls in December 2013, we had won three of the four seats, and this time the BJP wants us to win all four,” said an Akali leader, adding that they were contesting these seats, barring Rajouri Garden, on the BJP symbol ‘lotus’.
The SAD is leaving nothing to chance as it has called the members of Sant Samaj headed by Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhumma to Delhi and assigned them the tasks. The local unit of the SAD is also approaching the 700 local gurdwaras for support.
Most Akali ministers from Punjab can be seen campaigning for party candidates Jatinder Pal Singh Shanty from Shahdara, Avtar Singh Hit from Hari Nagar, Manjinder Singh Sirsa from Rajouri Garden and Harmeet Singh Kalka from Kalkaji.
Before the day’s campaigning, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal chaired a meeting of top party leaders at his Safdarjung Road residence to work out the strategy. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the deputy chief minister are focusing on the four constituencies.
The SAD president may deny this but the common perception in Delhi is that Sikhs which comprise 7% of the electorate in the national capital are veering towards the AAP.
“AAP candidates are opposing the SAD candidates on three of the four seats, which makes the contest look tough, but actually it is not,” Sukhbir told Hindustan Times soon after addressing a meeting of party leaders. The tension in the meeting room was palpable. He said the Congress vote bank is shifting towards the AAP, which could be a cause of concern for both the SAD and BJP.
The meeting was attended by SAD secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, MPs Naresh Gujral and Prem Singh Chandumajra and Punjab ministers Tota Singh, Bikram Majithia, Daljit Singh Cheema and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon besides Delhi Shiromani Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh GK.The SAD would not like a repeat of the recent patch of rough relations with the BJP in Punjab. The BJP had blamed the SAD for the below-par performance of the coalition in the 2014 parliamentary polls.