Fed up with not getting any positive response from the Bharatiya Janata Party on seat-sharing for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections, the Delhi unit of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) on Monday decided to contest 17 seats for the 70-member Assembly on its own.
At a meeting of the core committee, chaired by SAD (Badal) Delhi president Manjit Singh G.K., the party decided to go it alone and field candidates from those constituencies which have a sizeable Sikh and Punjabi population.
Party leaders said among the seats they will contest are Tilak Nagar and Rajouri Garden, which have over 50,000 Sikh voters each. Incidentally, these are two of the four seats which the SAD (Badal) wanted from the BJP. The party had contested the Rajouri Garden seat in the last Assembly elections and its candidate Avtar Singh Hit had lost by a wafer-thin margin of 46 votes.
This time, it was also seeking Tilak Nagar, which is represented by four-time BJP MLA O.P. Babber. The party said Tilak Nagar was primarily a Sikh-dominated seat where Sikh voters favoured the BJP candidate. “The booth-wise data of the constituency is proof that in all the booths with a large number of Sikh voters, the BJP candidate has won by bigger margins.”
As for the remaining two seats, the SAD (Badal) had left it to the BJP to decide. But the demand for these seats as per its leaders, was not agreed to by the BJP.
“A coordination panel was constituted comprising senior leaders B.S. Ramoowalia, Naresh Gujaral and Manjit Singh G.K. from the two sides, but it made no progress. The BJP leaders just kept saying that they would look into the demands but did not commit on any seat. We waited for over a month-and-a-half. During this time, we also met BJP national president Rajnath Singh and former president and Delhi in-charge Nitin Gadkari. But when the party still did not make any offer, we decided to contest 17 seats,” a party leader said, lamenting that the “BJP did not show the kind of grace that was expected of it”.
Noting that the other seats from which SAD (Badal) would be fielding its candidates are Adarsh Nagar, Shahdara, Patparganj, Jangpura, Kalkaji, Greater Kailash, Krishna Nagar, Moti Nagar, Nangloi, Shakur Basti, Rajinder Nagar, Janak Puri, and Madipur. He said party workers have been told to start organising meetings in all these constituencies starting this Wednesday.
The final decision would, however, be taken by the party high command, to which the resolution passed by the core committee has been sent. The SAD (Badal) leadership would also take a call on whether the party would contest on its own tarazu (scale) symbol or on the BJP’s lotus. “The BJP has been contesting elections in Punjab on the lotus symbol, and so we want to contest on our own symbol. But a final call again would be taken by the central leadership.”
Recalling that the alliance between the SAD (Badal) and the BJP had weathered many storms but had remained strong as ever over the past over two decades, the party leaders said in Punjab, the Akali Government always gave proper representation to the BJP in both tickets and even ministerial portfolios. “Even when they won fewer seats in the last Assembly elections, their ministerial berths were not reduced.”
On the other hand, the Delhi Akali leaders said the BJP had cut the candidature of at least five Akali candidates in the municipal polls last year. “They want to play the same trick this time. But we will not let it happen.”
Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel said he was confident that things would be sorted out. “When the BJP has still not decided its own candidates, how can it decide on other seats?” he asked.