Buoyed by the merger of People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), the Congress is trying to explore the possibilities of a tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Left parties in its bid to replicate the Bihar-style “grand alliance” in Punjab.
Though the strategy will be finalised by the central leadership, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, who was on Friday virtually projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for 2017 elections, is said to be in touch with local leaders of the BSP, CPI(M) and the CPI to put up a united fight against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine.
“We are now looking for a broad-based alliance for the next election. We are trying to get all secular parties together against the fundamentalist force,” Amarinder said.
A week ago, Punjab BSP chief Avtar Singh Karimpuri had said in Jalandhar that his party “would accept” Amarinder’s offer provided there was “a good proposal” from the Congress.
In the 2012 elections, the BSP’s vote share had increased from 4.13% to 4.30% but failed to open its account in the 117-member state assembly.
The vote shares of the CPI and the CPI(M), however, decreased drastically from 2007 polls. The CPI’s vote share dropped from 3.31% in 2007 to 2.49% in 2012, while that of the CPI(M) fell from 2.25% to 2.09%.
“We lost 2012 election by 0.8% vote share. PPP then got 5.04%. Had we been together, we could have saved Punjab,” Amarinder said. Announcing the “unconditional” merger, PPP chief Manpreet Singh Badal said the Congress has accepted his 11-point agenda that included eliminating nepotism and favouritism in government functioning. He had met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the merger issue thrice.
Manpreet had formed the PPP in March 2011 after he was expelled from the SAD in 2010 following differences with his cousin and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Contesting from Bathinda on Congress symbol in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Manpreet lost to SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal though by a thin margin of 19,874 votes.
Manpreet said he was also approached by the Aam Aadmi Party but insisted that the new party does not have a “blueprint to turn around” Punjab. “Congress platform is bigger, better and more experienced,” he said.