Punjab results compromise BJP’s position in alliance (Punjab Newsletter)

Chandigarh, March 22: The results of the recent assembly elections in Punjab have brought good and bad news to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. It’s back in power in the state with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) but is also in the not-so-happy position of piggybacking the party.

The SAD-BJP alliance became the first government in over 45 years in Punjab to come to power for a second consecutive term. But, for the BJP, the recent assembly election is also a story of slipping from a position of advantage in the previous SAD-BJP government in the state (2007-2012).

When the results of the 2007 assembly poll came, the BJP had won 19 seats in the 117-member assembly against the 49 seats of the Akali Dal. Without the BJP, the Akalis could not have been in government at all. Since it was a pre-poll alliance, both were able to comfortably see through the five-year rule.

It was only on two-three occasions that some strain came in their relationship but the BJP national leadership was able to sort this out given the proximity of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to the top BJP leaders.

In the 2012 elections, however, the BJP has managed to win only 12 seats while the Akalis beat the anti-incumbency factor to improve its tally to 56 seats instead of 49 earlier. Though both are again back in power and are expected to be comfortably placed there, the political position of the BJP has been compromised in the alliance.

“The state BJP leaders will no longer be able to dictate terms to us like they did on some occasions in the previous tenure,” a senior Akali Dal legislator told IANS.

Even though no one is looking at any possibility of a break-up in the alliance, what gives the Akalis an upper hand this time is that they are, on their own, close to the figure of 59 seats in the assembly, which is required for a simple majority in the 117-member assembly.

The Akalis have 56 legislators. There are three independent legislators in the assembly, two of whom are Akali Dal dissidents who won their seats from Ludhiana by contesting independently. Both of them are considered close to Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and have openly announced their support to the Akali Dal.

If a situation was to arise, the Akali Dal just needs the support of the three independents to stay in power even without the BJP.

However, the Akalis and the BJP are not even looking at this scenario with both sides maintaining that the relationship is a long-term one.

“The relationship of the Akali Dal with the BJP is an emotional one and never in the political history there was any trade off with an alliance partner as both the parties have moved with perfect understanding,” Badal said recently.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

IANS