After a gap of almost 25 years, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) formally stitched an alliance in Punjab on Saturday with an eye on a huge Dalit vote bank in the state ahead of the upcoming assembly elections.
Dalits account for almost 31 per cent of voters in Punjab and play an important role in determining the fortunes of political parties.
The announcement of the alliance was made in a joint press conference by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and BSP leader Satish Mishra on Saturday. The two parties had contested in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls with the alliance bagging 11 out of the 13 seats.
Badal said that as per the alliance, the BSP will contest 20 assembly seats while the rest will go to the SAD. In the Doaba region, which has a major chunk of the 31 per cent Dalit votes, the BSP will contest eight seats. The party will also put up its candidates on seven seats in Malwa and five in the Majha region. The assembly segments that have been allotted to BSP are Kartarpur Sahib, Jalandhar-West, Jalandhar -North, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur, Tanda, Dasuya, Chamkaur Sahib, Bassi Pathana, Mehal Kalan, Nawanshahar, Ludhiana North, Sujjanpur, Boha, Pathankot, Anandpur Sahib, Mohali, Amritsar central and north and Payal.
“Both the parties have been able to stitch an alliance because both parties could think about the upliftment of poor and the farmers. Both these parties will fight for the rights of the poor and the neglected," said Badal. Echoing the same sentiments, Satish Mishra said the alliance is a partnership of farmers and Dalits, both of whom are suffering at the hands of present governments in Punjab and Centre.
Sources said that the SAD had forged this strategic alliance in the context of the ongoing farmers stir. Analyst say that though the SAD had broken off from the BJP after the contentious farm laws were passed by the Lok Sabha, it had failed to rub off the perception that it had done little to stop the passage of the bills. This was evident during the civic body polls that took place just after the laws were passed in which the Akali dal could not manage to do well.
“The farmers could still be upset over the farm laws. So the party thinks it can work on caste lines and hence a tie-up with a party which has historically done well in Dalit dominated pockets in the state. A reason why the SAD has given eight out of the 23 seats in the Daoaba region to the alliance partner," said a party insider.
The development comes at a time when all the political parties including the Congress are trying to woo the Dalit voters in the state. The Congress is also believed to be toying with the idea of having either a Dalit deputy chief minister or a party chief from the community.