With severe anti-incumbency staring the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the face ahead of the 2017 polls in the state, there is nothing much for the Badals-led party to cheer. Possibly going through the lowest phase of their popularity ever since they came to power in 2007, followed by a repeat stint in 2012, the Akalis are everyone’s favourite whipping boys.
Yet the mood at the epicenter of Akali politics — the residence of the state Deputy Chief Minister and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal — is upbeat, almost buoyant with files virtually flying about and works being assigned and monitored at a frantic pace.
“SAD has been in the poll mode for the past three months. I have learnt from the past. There is no point talking about what I plan to do. It is the work on the ground that should show that I mean business,” says Sukhbir.
Close on the heels of the survey done by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state, SAD’s own ‘secret’ survey of the constituencies three months ago has thrown up numbers that suggested that despite all the hullabaloo about SAD’s sagging image, all was not lost.
Sources say the survey showed the 2017 polls would be a close contest between the SAD and the AAP with Congress trailing at the third spot.
“As of today, the AAP is not what it was three months ago. Even if we presume that they are able to latch on some popularity as we move towards the elections, they are going to cut into the Congress vote bank, giving us the needed numbers to sail through,” says Sukhbir.
'Ready for battle'
Almost excited at the tough challenge that the 2017 elections promise to be for the ruling alliance, Sukhbir says he is ready for the battle. “I fight to win and let me tell you one thing. I am going to fire every bullet in my armoury in these elections. I cannot reveal my entire strategy, but development is the biggest achievement I will go back to the people with. Even my harshest adversaries admit, in private, what the Akalis have done for the state. Be it power, roads, airports, villages, policing, governance, sewa kendras we have tried to push the state forward. For the elections, we are preparing a 20-point programme that would be launched in October.”
“The programmes will not be implemented only in SAD constituencies. They will be for the state. Only an over -confident or foolish leader thinks that he should work only for his own voters. For me everyone in Punjab is my constituency,” he added. Sukhbir’s close aides add Rs 10,000 crore will be spent on putting the programmes in place.
“It’s like leaving the best for the last. The sewa kendra in villages are going to be in place soon. There is a move to double the old age pension from Rs 250 to Rs 500 as promised in the manifesto. A special pension scheme for those who fought for Punjabi Suba and were jailed during the emergency has also been conceived. We also plan creation of ‘smart villages,” an aide claimed.
“There will be more tubewell connections, more underground irrigation pipelines and even special trains. In three months from now, the Congress and AAP will not know how to counter our moves,” added the close aide.
Ready to fire on all cylinders, party leaders add that SAD is also keeping in mind the possibility of a break-up with BJP before the polls. “If this (the break-up with BJP) actually happens, then the SAD is likely to look at the BSP for a ten-seat tie-up. Nothing can be ruled out in politics,” a senior SAD leader added.