The second biggest national party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), might be making desperate effort to rule the country again, but in Punjab, the minor partner in the ruling coalition has no freedom to field candidates in even small elections.
In the zila parishad and block samiti elections, it has to "rent" candidates from dominant partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). In this part of the state's Malwa region, the SAD has marginalised the saffron party completely, leaving it only a few seats in the upcoming elections on May 19, in even its strongholds in the assembly elections.
In Rajpura in Patiala district, where the BJP is contesting since 1992 when it entered an alliance with the SAD in Punjab, the right wing party has "rented" candidates from the SAD in four block samiti constituencies. Call it pressure created by the SAD or its own failure, in Rajpura, it has only 12 seats to the SAD's 13. Last time, the SAD had only nine seats here and the BJP 16.
On block samiti seats Uksi, Chamaru and Phabri, the SAD played a drama on Wednesday on the day of withdrawal of nominations and got the BJP candidates barred. The saffrons had no choice but to adopt the SAD candidate as their nominees.
In the zila parishad seats, the SAD has taken two of the three. In Jangpura, the BJP has adopted the SAD nominee, while in Rajpura, the leader managing the affairs, Raj Khurana, claimed eveything was fine. "Some issues, but those have been sorted out," he said in a short comment on the situation.
Out of 167 block samiti seats in Patiala, the BJP has been left only 18, of which, 12 are in Rajpura. The party's base in the region has shrunk by not yards but miles. In Sangrur district, which has seven assembly seats, the saffron party has been given only one seat out of 181. In Barnala district, which has three assembly seats, it will not contest.
In Bathinda district, the BJP has been given only three block samiti seats out of more than 150, and In Fatehgarh Sahib, not a single seat of block samiti has gone to the BJP. In Mansa, the party fights only three block samiti seats.