The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the Punjab Assembly elections in 2022 after breaking ties with BJP last year over the Centre's contentious farm laws.
With the new alliance, the Sukhbir Singh Badal-led party aims to fill the gap in several seats after its split with the BJP in September last year. The BSP will contest the seats earlier assigned to the BJP.
The state assembly has a total of 117 seats. While 20 seats have been allotted to the BSP, Akali Dal will contest 97 seats.
"It's a new day in Punjab politics. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party will fight the 2022 Punjab state polls and future elections together," Sukhbir Singh Badal said at a press conference today.
The Akali Dal and BSP are joining hands 27 years after the 1996 Lok Sabha elections when their alliance had bagged 11 out of 13 seats in Punjab. The Mayawati-led BSP had then won all three seats it had contested while the Akali Dal won eight out of 10 seats.
"The tie-up between SAD and BSP in Punjab is a significant move. This will start a new chapter for the progress of people in the state. I congratulate people for this historic move," BSP chief Mayawati said in a tweet in Hindi.
"While most people are suffering due to the corrupt rule of the Congress, women, Dalits and farmers are the worst-hit. To free all of them, it's important to make this alliance a success," she wrote in another post.
Former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who had quit the Union Cabinet over the centre's controversial farm laws last year, defined the alliance as "the rise of a new dawn of hope"
"SAD_BSP_Alliance announced today symbolizes social, political and religious fraternity and solidarity of all Punjabis. It marks the beginning of the end of the era of darkness spread by 4 yrs of Cong brazen misrule, anarchy, corruption, and total economic collapse in Punjab," Harsimrat Kaur, the SAD chief's wife, tweeted.
This alliance is the rise of a new dawn of hope for all Punjabis in general & for poorer sections, Dalits, farmers, farm labour, the unemployed, small traders etc in particular. 2/2#SAD_BSP_Alliancepic.twitter.com/UYXksEQeb5— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) June 12, 2021
Sukhbir Badal is said to be behind the new alliance who announced last week that his party is open to tie-ups barring the Congress, BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
"We cannot align with these parties. We will form alliances and we are open to others. No chance to go with BJP at all," the 58-year-old leader had said last week.
The Akali Dal was the oldest ally of the BJP dating back to 1992.
Akali Dal used to be the senior partner in the alliance with the party contesting over 90 out of 117 seats in the state. The rest went to BJP.
Similarly for Lok Sabha polls too, Akali Dal fielded candidates in 10 out of 13 seats while the BJP got three.
Akali Dal pulled out of the NDA in September last year over three agriculture bills, which set off a storm of protests from farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana. As the bills were presented in the Lok Sabha, the lone Akali minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, quit. The minister, who was part of the cabinet that cleared the bill, had drawn a lot of criticism in the state.
A week later, Sukhbir Badal called the bills "lethal and disastrous" for its key voter base of farmers and quit the NDA.
The Akali Dal and the BSP, which was fighting solo in the state, saw a dip in vote share in the 2017 assembly polls compared to the 2007 polls. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance came to power in 2007 before being ousted by the Congress in 2017 that won an absolute majority in the state by winning 77 seats.
The AAP, which emerged as a major force in the 2017 polls, got 23.7 per cent of the votes while the BJP's vote share went down from 8.28 per cent in 2007 to 5.4 per cent in 2017.