National

Akali Dal on ‘course correction’ in Punjab

Sukhbir Singh Badal  

The BJP’s oldest alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) decision to end its coalition with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) amid farmers’ protests over the new farm sector Bills is being seen as ‘course correction’ that could help the party regain its voter base across Punjab.

The SAD, which initially supported the agriculture-related ordinances but later took a U-turn and decided to vote against the farm Bills in Parliament, had been under pressure to quit the NDA not just from the opposition parties, but even from within the party as many senior leaders cautioned the top leadership over possible backlash that the party would have to face in the 2022 Assembly elections against the backdrop of the ongoing farmer’s agitation.

 

Political analysts believe the SAD’ s decision to pull out of the NDA may help it to manage its fast losing farmers constituency, however, how and to what extent it will help the SAD to win over the farmers and farm labourers is too early to count.

Two issues

“Historically, two issues had been at core for the Shiromani Akali Dal. First, the party in mid-sixties had taken a position surrounding federalism — they evolved regional agenda surrounding ‘Punjabi Suba’ movement and demanded more rights for States. Second, Punjab predominantly being agrarian society, the Akali Dal started articulating the interests of agriculture sector and farmers. Now, any regional party that leaves its local agenda goes into oblivion and the Akali Dal was facing that problem, as an alliance partner with the BJP, which is a national party. The SAD was pushed towards the margins, putting its survival at stake. The moment the issue of farmers and agriculture came to contention, it really didn’t have any choice other than to leave the alliance and work for own survival,” said Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh.

Also read: After Arun Jaitley, none in BJP understands psyche of Punjab: SAD MP Naresh Gujral

Mr. Kumar added that BJP may become almost politically untouchable in Punjab and would be at loosing end, following the SAD’s decision to quit. “The Akali Dal is back on course correction and is back on its agenda of the mid-sixties. The SAD, which was going into oblivion has got an opportunity to get its act together ahead of the Assembly polls, due in year 2022,” he said.

Ronki Ram, Shaheed Bhaghat Singh Chair professor of political science at Panjab University, points out that the decision of the SAD to come out of the NDA may help it to manage its fast losing farmers constituency.

“How and to what extent it will help SAD to win over the Dalits [particularly farm labourers] is too early to count. Farmers and Scheduled Castes [farmers and labourers] together constitute roughly 65% to 67% of the total votes in Punjab. A large number of students and unemployed youth were also reportedly participating in the ongoing farmers protests that hints at some fresh emerging political alignments. Any political party or a possible third alternative that can win the confidence of this newly emerging political alignment is going to be the decisive factor in the coming 2022 Assembly election,” said Mr. Ram.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 4:14:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/akali-dal-on-course-correction-in-punjab/article32709452.ece

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