The Bharatiya Janta Party ( BJP) and its electoral ally in Haryana, the Haryana Janhit Congress, face a strange predicament with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a loyal constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), deciding to extend support to Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in the Lok Sabha polls.
SAD and INLD chieftains share old political and family ties. In fact, senior Akali Dal leader and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal also tried unsuccessfully till last minute to get the INLD back in the NDA fold.
SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has made the party’s intentions clear by not only visiting Dushyant Chautala, the elder son of incarcerated INLD leader Ajay Chautala, on his nomination day at Hisar but also expressing unequivocal support of the SAD cadres in the INLD’s poll management.
This has clearly upset HJC leader Kuldeep Bishnoi who minced no words in expressing his protest. A riled Kuldeep told HT that Badal had backstabbed the NDA by expressing support for the INLD. “The only thing left now for Badals is to put up a candidate against me,” said the HJC chief who is contesting from Hisar Lok Sabha seat.
On being asked whether he has taken up the issue with the BJP central leadership, Bishnoi said, “To whom should I complain and what difference will it make. I feel the SAD’s explicit support to the INLD will prove counter-productive for the INLD. The Akalis have always opposed equitable distribution of water for Haryana. The public sentiment is against them.”
Haryana BJP leaders also seem edgy over the SAD move. State BJP president Ram Bilas Sharma said though the SAD support to the INLD was the outcome of their old ties, the state BJP had taken up the matter with the BJP central leadership.
As part of their unified poll startegy, the INLD has put up former SAD MLA Charanjeet Singh Rori as the party candidate from Sirsa constituency. Rori, who contested the 2009 Haryana assembly polls on the SAD symbol, resigned from the assembly to file his Lok Sabha nomination as an INLD candidate.
What has disturbed the state BJP leadership more is the fact that SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has decided to hold poll meetings in Haryana in favour of INLD candidates on April 2 in four Lok Sabha constituencies -- three of which are being contested by the BJP candidates.
Sukhbir, along with INLD state president Ashok Arora, will hold election meetings at Odhan and Fatehabad (Sirsa seat), Assandh (Karnal seat), Pehowa (Kurukshetra seat) and Ambala (Ambala seat) – all having a sizeable Sikh vote bank.
While it is unlikely that the BJP central leadership will pull up the Akalis, one of its most trusted allies over the year, the stony silence of the BJP top leadership on the issue may affect the longevity of its alliance with Bishnoi and its own electoral prospects on certain key seats.