Insight Delhi

Akalis give up on BJP-Punjab Perspective

Faced with diminishing returns from the National Democratic Alliance, NDA, the Shiromani Akali Dal has ended its long partnership with the BJP.

Ostensibly, the move comes in the wake of the Narendra Modi dispensation’s decision to persist with the so-called farm sector reforms despite widespread opposition from the farming community. The Akali Dal leaders, the Badals allege that the farm legislation has been rammed through without consulting them.

But the Punjab perspective cannot be ignored in the development. The Akali Dal has been a founding member party of the NDA, and had stood by the BJP through thick and thin, rain and shine in the last quarter-century. This was because the two parties complemented each other in the crucial state of Punjab. What is more, their interests and constituencies did not clash in the border state.

While the Akali Dal had its sway in the Sikh community and in the rural areas, the BJP had its base in the cities and the urban Hindu voters. Actually, the alliance between the two parties helped both to tackle the broad-based Congress, which had its supporters in both rural and urban pockets.

But the alliance was routed in the last Assembly elections when it came third after the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party. One of the main reasons for the Akali Dal-BJP debacle was the failure of the BJP to hold on to its support base in the Hindu dominated urban areas. The Akalis too suffered setbacks and barely held on to their strongholds.

It has now become clear to the Akali Dal that the party cannot afford further erosion of its support base in the rural areas of Punjab. The party also knows that loss of vote share in villages cannot be compensated by BJP supporting voters in urban areas.

The Akali Dal has deserted the BJP as it finds that continued association with the national ruling party is not going to serve its interests in Punjab.

Whether the move is right or wrong will become clear in the next few months. But the final time of reckoning will come when Punjab goes for Assembly elections in a couple of years.