Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Baldev Singh Khaira, who in 2012 was polled 42,328 votes from Phillaur assembly segment, joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at a ceremony in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
The induction of Khaira reflects SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s attempt to clip the wings of party MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Avinash Chander, who is facing an Enforcement Directorate (ED) inquiry in the Bhola drug racket case. As Chander had won the Phillaur seat merely by 31 votes, Khaira’s induction indicates that the Akalis may field a fresh face in Phillaur to boost party’s prospects in the 2017 polls.
“Khaira was the strongest BSP face in Phillaur. We will give him an important assignment. We will announce candidates from some seats soon,” Sukhbir told the media, while welcoming Khaira into the party fold.
The SAD chief evaded a direct reply when asked if Khaira will contest from Phillaur. “Party will decide,” he said.
Saying that Khaira was the “main pillar” of the BSP in the Dalit-dominated Doaba region, Sukhbir said he will be accorded full respect in the party.
Khaira belongs to the Ravidasia community and is also an ardent follower of ‘Radha Soami’ sect that has considerable following in the region. Khaira, whose first electoral victory was as a Zila Parishad member, is married to a girl from a well-off Hindu business family of Phillaur.
Khaira’s entry has put a question mark over the future of Chandar, whose tenure as Phillaur MLA has been mired in controversies and his replacement was being seen imminent. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the SAD candidate Pawan Kumar Tinnu had trailed by 18,000 votes from Phillaur segment.