Following a deadlock with alliance partner BJP over sharing of seats, the Shiromani Akali Dal on Saturday decided to contest independently on 12 seats in the forthcoming assembly elections in Delhi scheduled for December 4.
According to the decision, the SAD will contest on its own symbol 'scale' and will field candidates on 12 seats even if the BJP also has candidates on these seats. The SAD and the BJP have an alliance government in Punjab and the SAD is also part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Sources said the decision came after the Delhi unit of the SAD held a lengthy meeting with SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on the issue. So far there is no official announcement from the party in this regard.
"The BJP is mired in its own problems, is indecisive on sharing seats with the SAD and not much time is left for the elections, so our party has asked us to go ahead independently and contest on seats which have considerable Punjabi and Sikh population," revealed a SAD leader.
(Sukhbir was recently re-elected as SAD (Badal) president for a second term.)
The decision may be suicidal for both the SAD and the BJP. SAD insiders say that in such a scenario, the SAD hopes to win not more than one seat and the BJP would also lose on the seats where the SAD would contest. With Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal gaining ground in Delhi, breaking of the SAD-BJP alliance would make things tough for both the parties.
The 12 seats on which SAD plans to field candidates are Rajouri Garden, Tilak Nagar, Hari Nagar, Moti Nagar, Timarpur, Adarsh Nagar, Greater Kailash, Kalkaji, Parparganj, Shahdara, Shakur Basti and Vishvas Nagar. Sources said that as directed by the SAD president, Delhi unit is going to start meetings in these constituencies from Tuesday.
Last month, a series of meetings took place between the top leaders of SAD and BJP but no decision could be reached as the BJP wanted the SAD to take one seat from Rajouri Garden and Tilak Nagar whereas the Akali Dal wanted both out of total four seats given to the SAD out of total 70, as per the arrangement of the election alliance.
"Our aim is to strengthen the base of our party in Delhi, so keeping the assembly elections in view we are starting a mass contact programme in the assembly segments where, we feel, the SAD can make an impact," said SAD's Delhi unit president and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh GK.
(Many see winning Delhi Assembly elections as a roadmap for upcoming Lok Sabha elections.)
On being asked whether the SAD was out of poll alliance with the BJP for the Delhi elections, GK said the decision was to be made by the party high command but the Delhi unit of the SAD had decided to start preparations on assembly segments where it felt it could make a mark.
BJP cadres are in a state of confusion after the party decided to declare BJP's former Delhi state unit president Harshvardhan who was the health minister when the BJP was in power in Delhi as the chief ministerial candidate in place of BJP's Delhi unit president Vijay Goel. The parliamentary board of the BJP in Delhi is expected to meet shortly.