It’s testing times for the Akali-BJP alliance in Punjab. The civic elections have opened a rift between the allies at several places.
In Tarn Taran, Batala, Nadala and Pathankot, the two parties will fight each other openly, while for many other wards, their workers will either take on ally or throw their weight behind independents. The situation building up across the state led the two parties to issue a joint statement on Saturday, warning their workers and office-bearers not to contest or canvass against joint candidates.
Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Tikshan Sood and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) general
secretary Dr DS Cheema have asked the nominees against joint candidates to withdraw before Monday (February 16) or face strict disciplinary action for violating the high-command directive.
Accepting that the situation in Tarn Taran, Batala and Nadala had become irreparable, the two leaders conceded that the “local leadership of Tarn Taran and Batala districts would decide about contesting at own level”. For the 23-seat Tarn Taran council, both parties will go solo. The stalemate emerged after the SAD candidates and ticket contenders assaulted BJP minister Anil Joshi’s brother Raja Joshi, who had eye on ticket.
The 35-seat Batala council will also witness a straight contest between the allies. The alliance had swept the 2008 council polls, winning 25 of the-then 33 seats. The BJP had contested 25 seats, winning 19.
This time, the Akalis proposed to contest 26 seats and leave nine to the BJP. Confident of its influence in Batala, the saffron party turned down the offer. At Nadala in Kapurthala, both will contest all 11 seats.
At Pathankot, SAD will vie with the partner for 15 of the 50 corporation seats. Though it has not fielded any candidate for the rest, it is unlikely to support the BJP in these wards. The Akalis wanted 17 seats while the BJP was ready to concede only four, both blaming each other for the standoff.
At Sanaur (Patiala) also, there was no consensus on the division of seats and both pitted their candidates on 15 seats, breaking the 11-4 agreement in favour of the Akalis. The SAD is said to have fielded 13 candidates on own symbol, and the BJP on 10. Both will support the independents on the remaining seats.
In Sangrur, they failed to reach consensus in two wards. In Dhuri, even though the BJP was promised seven of the 21 seats, it is contesting an additional seat and backing four independents against the SAD openly. At Mukerian (Hoshiarpur) as well, the two face each other, breaking another seat-sharing deal.