The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has formed an alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the Punjab Assembly elections.
SAF broke 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, sources say. 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.
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.
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).
The BSP has a considerable hold over the 31 per cent Dalit votes in the state. The concentration of these votes in 23 seats of the Doaba region is more significant. Dalits constitute almost 40 per cent of the population in Punjab.
The BSP is likely to contest from 18-20 seats the Akali Dal earlier offered BJP during its alliance with the ruling party, sources say. 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.
With inputs from NDTV