The stitching of an alliance between Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the 2022 Punjab assembly polls may have been termed as a ‘master stroke’ to woo the politically significant Dalit vote bank beyond the alliance bonhomie. However, the gains for both may not turn out to be significant.
Observers point out that the BSP, with an eroded base, may not contribute much to SAD’s plans of pursuing Dalit voters. Over the years, BSP has suffered serious setbacks and is seen more as a vote ‘cutter’ than a serious political contender in the fray. The party has witnessed quite a fall since the 90s when it managed to win nine assembly constituencies in 1992 and three Lok Sabha seats in 1996 under a tie-up with the Akali Dal. From a 12 per cent vote share in 1996, the party has come down to 1.5 per cent during the 2017 assembly polls.
After Akali Dal joined hands with the BJP in 1997, the BSP was left with few options. Since then, the party played a ‘spoiler’ for other parties, especially the Congress. The BSP also lost many leaders and worker base to SAD and Congress over the years. In fact, some SAD MLAs in the current assembly are turncoats from the BSP. The tie-up has sparked off protests from within the BSP with some disgruntled leaders alleging that the party has a raw deal.
“Of the 20 odd seats given to us, half are those are seats where we stand no chance to win. These are the constituencies where SAD didn’t want to contest given their poor track record, so they sort of dumped these seats on us," commented an angry BSP leader.
BSP leaders pointed out seats like Sujjanpur, Bhoa, Pathankot, Jalandhar North, Dasuya, Tanda, Amritsar Central and North, Payal and Ludhiana North, are those where the party is considered weak.
Notwithstanding these hiccups, the SAD believes the tie-up will help. “It sends the right signal to Dalits who thought SAD was party of the upper castes. So, it is a pragmatic alliance," remarked a senior SAD leader.
But the party cannot ignore the ongoing farmer agitation, which has altered the state’s political spectrum. “It’s a huge issue. The farmers believe that on the issue of farm laws all are on board and aggrieved. People across castes have come together to pitch for the demands of the farmers. In such a situation how would caste matrix help, remains to be seen," commented a senior leader.
Experts feel that the SAD-BSP alliance will not make much difference as far as electoral politics is concerned as both parties have been dealing with their own crisis.
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