Interview| SAD-BJP combine would’ve won 11 of 13 Punjab seats: Ex-MP Naresh Gujral - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Interview| SAD-BJP combine would’ve won 11 of 13 Punjab seats: Ex-MP Naresh Gujral

May 29, 2024 04:20 PM IST

Former Rajya Sabha member expresses concern over the emergence of radical forces in the Lok Sabha elections in the state and the poor law and order under the AAP government

Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Naresh Gujral believes that had the SAD-BJP combine contested the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in alliance, it would have won 11 of the 13 seats in Punjab. In an interview to HT in Jalandhar on Wednesday, the former Rajya Sabha member hoped for an alliance of principles on the peasant and panthic issues in the 2027 assembly elections. He expressed concern over the emergence of radical forces and poor law and order under the AAP government besides discussing the comeback that the country’s second oldest party is making.

Senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Rajya Sabha member Naresh Gujral says that in an election when most candidates in Punjab have switched sides, the SAD is the only party where only one of the 13 candidates is an import. (HT file photo)
Senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Rajya Sabha member Naresh Gujral says that in an election when most candidates in Punjab have switched sides, the SAD is the only party where only one of the 13 candidates is an import. (HT file photo)

How do you see the election scenario in Punjab?

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

The picture is not clear, but it’s startling to see radical forces, which had at one stage in the ’80s destabilised Punjab, rearing their heads again. Punjab has seen extreme politics but it can’t afford to have such forces gaining ground. Punjabis are volatile and youngsters impatient. I hope these forces are kept in check.

Where is the Shiromani Akali Dal in this four-cornered fight?

The Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab has failed to deliver. People are disillusioned. The Congress had also failed to keep its commitments. This time, most candidates have switched sides but the SAD is the only party where only one of the 13 candidates is an import. (SAD chief) Sukhbir Singh Badal has been getting a good response from the people and hopes it translates into votes. The traditional vote share we lost in the 2022 assembly elections is coming back to us. Anyone who gets even 27% votes will romp home.

What went wrong on the alliance with the BJP?

We are a party of farmers. We were the oldest coalition partner of the BJP and we left it on the issue of farmers. While the talks did happen this time too, we kept insisting that certain issues need to be addressed, including fulfilment of commitments made to farmers, stopping the interference of the RSS in gurdwara affairs and the immediate release of Bandi Singhs (Sikh prisoners who have completed their terms). This holds good for the future, too.

Would the poll equation have been different had the SAD-BJP contested as allies?

Had the SAD-BJP contested together, we would have won 11 of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. However, we will not ally with them even in the 2027 (assembly elections) until the fundamental issues are addressed.

How do you see questions being raised about Sukhbir’s leadership?

It’s a test of his leadership. It happens when there is a change of baton. Some leaders had left the party but they’ve all returned. He is enforcing discipline as can be gauged with the expulsion of his brother-in-law Adesh Pratap Kairon.

What are the reasons behind the SAD’s sinking graph?

A wrong perception was created as if the SAD was involved with drugs about which the high court has now given a judgment. It was projected that the police firing in Kotkapura in 2015 was done at our behest. That chapter is over. The SAD was the only party that made the state power surplus, developed infrastructure, built roads, developed cities and ensured investment of MNCs during its rule. People tend to forget these things.

What does the future hold for the Shiromani Akali Dal?

In 2024, we are fighting a semi-final before the 2027 assembly elections. I hope our demands are met by the BJP and we will go back to the saffron party as it will be an alliance of principles and not of convenience. We are the only party that governs from Punjab, while governance is handled from Delhi in the case of the others.

Union home minister Amit Shah says the AAP government will be toppled if the BJP comes to power.

The AAP deserves to complete its term as the people gave it a mandate for five years. I hope attempts are not made to destabilise the Punjab government. The AAP made commitments that they were not able to meet. They are back to making tall promises. If the AAP doesn’t do well in this election, it shows that people are not satisfied with their governance.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, June 14, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On