The victory of the BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra will make it more assertive in Punjab where it has a coalition government with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The results are a cause of worry for the SAD, especially after it opposed its partner in the Haryana polls, running an aggressive campaign in favour of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which won just 20 seats.
However, SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema played it down, saying, “There has been no effect of the Haryana polls on the SAD-BJP ties. These are minor skirmishes that will be ironed out with time. The SAD will continue to support the BJP, which can’t act rashly on the issue as the SAD has a strong base in Punjab.”
Commenting on the issue, BJP’s Punjab affairs in-charge Shanta Kumar asked the SAD to introspect. “They (Akalis) worked against us during the parliamentary polls and then during the Haryana assembly polls.
But, now on, they need to be more cautious as they are part of the NDA, and it sends wrong signals,” Shanta said, adding that the Akalis’ intervention in Haryana had made no difference to them. He said that so far there was no discussion with the Shiromani Akali Dal on the issue.
May not be anactual break-up
Despite indications to this effect, the BJP may not break its alliance with the SAD, but it would certainly be more assertive and would seek a bigger role in running the government. It already has been asserting on the issues related to urban areas where it has its stronghold. In future, the BJP may ask for more assembly seats to contest. In the 2012 assembly polls, it had contested 23 of the 117 seats.
The BJP is already being assertive with the Centre raising questions on the style of functioning of the state government.
In the long run, the BJP can limit the SAD’s role, but the decision to sever ties would not be wise politically. It is going to be a challenge for the SAD also to continue enjoying an edge over its alliance partner in running the Punjab government as it had before Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister.
Shiromani Akali Dal Plot fails
Despite objections by Haryana BJP leaders, the SAD continued to spearhead a campaign for the INLD when its supremo Om Pakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala are in jail. The SAD fielded its candidates on two seats -- Ambala and Kalanwali – and won the Kalanwali seat.
The results show that the SAD attempt to politically assert itself by supporting the INLD turned out to be a damp squib. Had the INLD scored numbers and the BJP were without a majority, it would have proved a masterstroke.
When the SAD went ahead with the campaigning in Haryana, there were voices in the BJP of teaching the SAD a lesson at an appropriate time. Though there were no clear voices from the top leadership, the second-rung leaders of the BJP had hinted at contesting the 2017 polls in Punjab alone. Former Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu, during the Haryana campaign, had taken on the Badals, terming the SAD a party of “backstabbers”.
Lessons for SAD: Shanta
Meanwhile, in Jalandhar, BJP leader Shanta Kumar said the SAD must take lessons from the poll outcome in Haryana. Shanta said the SAD should know that its experiment of having a coalition with other parties had failed to bring any harm to the BJP. “The BJP has emerged stronger despite their opposition. Our alliance partner must understand that it has failed to make any difference in Haryana,” he said.
Advising the SAD to rethink its strategy, Shanta said the SAD claimed that the INLD was its long-term partner. “But it’s against the coalition dharma of the NDA,” said Shanta.
(With inputs from HTC, Jalandhar)