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Barrage of rallies in Punjab much before arrival of elections

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Chandigarh: It may not be election time in Punjab, but the state is witnessing a spate of political rallies as major parties in the state are already in a poll mode.

The lead has been taken by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which announced ‘Sadbhawna rallies’ in Bathinda, Moga, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib and a ‘mega rally’ in Patiala.

The Akali Dal’s alliance partner, BJP, which was exploring options to go solo in the next assembly polls in the state, has done a re-think after the recent Bihar poll results and has joined the Akali Dal in the rallies.

The Akali Dal was forced to hold the rallies to avoid eroding its traditional vote bank of farmers and people in rural areas after recent incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib led to protests and violence and radical Sikh elements and organizations were able to cash in on the situation and blame the Parkash Singh Badal government for not restoring order.

The opposition Congress, which had been grappling with its internal power struggle and factionalism in the past one year, is also setting itself for a course correction with former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh being finally made the state unit president.

The big showdown between the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress is slated for December 15 when the Congress organises its first big rally in Bathinda town where Amarinder Singh will formally take over as the state Congress president.

Akali Dal president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has announced that the party will hold its biggest rally on the same day in front of the Moti Bagh Palace of Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala).

The Congress chose Bathinda for Amarinder’s coronation after Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal recently challenged its leadership to hold a rally at the same ground where the Akali Dal organised its first ‘Sadbhawna rally’ on Nov 23.

Bathinda is the Lok Sabha constituency of Sukhbir Badal’s wife, union minister Harsimrat Badal.

“We will hold a big, historic rally in Bathinda which will be attended by all Congress leaders. People will join the rally on their own, unlike the Akalis who misused government machinery for their rally,” Congress leader Sunil Jakhar said.

After the Bathinda rally, the Congress is likely to plan more rallies in coming days.

Not the one to be left behind, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has four Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab, is making its presence felt with its own series of meetings across the state. The AAP has announced that its leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will camp in Punjab some time next year to strengthen the party’s base.

The AAP is preparing itself to be the third major force in the state. The party knows that it has a substantial vote bank of people who are disenchanted with the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress.

Elections to Punjab’s 117-member assembly will be held in Feb-March 2017.

(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

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Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Intact

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient

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Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.

By Sagarneel Sinha

There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!

Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.

Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.

This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.