In a major embarrassment for Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), all four candidates fielded by the party in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost in the Delhi assembly polls.
Three Akalis -- Jatinder Pal Singh Shanty (Shahdara), Harmeet Singh Kalka (Kalkaji) and Avtar Singh Hit (Hari Nagar) -- contested on the saffron party’s ‘lotus’ symbol, while Manjinder Singh Sirsa fought from Rajouri Garden on the Akali symbol (‘scales’). All lost to candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), even though the party’s vote share increased compared to the December 2013 polls.
An Akali leader, who didn’t wish to be quoted, blamed the BJP for the rout. He said, “Top Akali leaders such as Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal were not even invited to poll rallies addressed by senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
He added, “The BJP was labelled anti-minority after the conversion row. As per our information, Muslim voters, who comprise 11% of Delhi’s electorate, and Sikhs (7%) voted en masse for the AAP.”
As per reports, Sikhs voted for the AAP because senior advocate and party leader HS Phoolka had been fighting cases of 1984 riot victims, while AAP convener and then Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had announced the setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate all riot cases. The SAD and the BJP failed to woo Sikh voters even though the NDA government disbursed compensation among some riot victims and there were reports of possible reopening of cases, recommended by the justice GP Mathur committee.
Akali heavyweight Manjinder Singh Sirsa lost by a margin of about 10,000 votes to AAP’s Jarnail Singh, who had shot into the limelight when he hurled a shoe at then Union minister P Chidambaram in 2009. Shanty lost to Ram Niwas Goyal by a margin of 12,000 votes, Hit went down to Jagdeep Singh by around 26,000 votes and Harmeet Singh Kalka from Kalkaji also lost to AAP’s Avtar Singh Kalka with a margin of about 20,000 votes. Interestingly on all four seats the number of votes polled in favour of Akali candidates is more than previous polls but that can’t convert into victory for them.
Out of four, three Akali candidates – Sirsa, Shanty, and Kalka were MLA in the previous legislative assembly, they were also facing anti incumbency. Hit was seen as a week candidate as he started his campaign late and was also low on perception in the voters mind. SAD wanted to show up better results, as BJP had called truce with the Akali party in the run up to the Delhi polls, but with BJP also having lost bitterly it is clear that the two coalition partner can’t question each other for the loss.