Is Punjab ready for a new party?

Proponents of SAD (Badal) and Bargari Insaf Morcha believe there is space for a third political force in the state. They cite the stunning performance of AAP in the 2014 general election

Is Punjab ready for a new party?

Rajeev Khanna

Is Punjab getting ready for a fresh round of churning? Two different announcements for the formation of new political parties have put the cat among the pigeons. The state is hotly debating if there is space for a third party in the state, who would be the loser and if the new parties will be controlled by hardliners.

The first announcement came from the Bargari Insaf Morcha, which has been at the forefront of the agitation against the state government’s alleged failure to book people responsible for acts of sacrilege of holy texts. The second came from the rebels of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), who threatened to announce the formation of a party on December 14.

Bargari Morcha has been pledged support by United Akali Dal (UAD) and Akali Dal (Amritsar) besides Dal Khalsa and rebels of the Aam Aadmi Party like Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, who was a veteran leader of SAD (Badal), said the new ‘parallel party’ would be based on Akali Dal’s original ideology of 1920. “We welcome even non-Akali parties that can agree to our ideology. The Bains brothers of LIP and AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira who have old Akali connections too have been apprised of our vision,” Brahmpura added.

Proponents of both these groups believe there is space for a third political force in the state. They cite the stunning performance of AAP in the 2014 general election when it bagged four of the 13 Lok Sabha seats despite the Modi wave.

While over-ambitious AAP leaders squandered away the opportunity, people are still yearning for an alternative to SAD (Badal), Congress and the BJP.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is, for sure, staring at a precipice in the state

Dal Khalsa leader Kanwar Pal Singh points out, “It is clear that the Badals (former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy and son Sukhbir Singh Badal) have ditched the Panth. There is a vacuum and political space available. A party with Panthic credentials should fulfill this space.”

Badals’ control of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and even the Akal Takht had come in for sharp criticism. The recent indictment of Badals by Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh Commission that was probing instances of sacrilege of holy texts over the last three years has further put the Badals in a spot.

The failure of Sukhbir to participate in a debate on the issue on the floor of the House has further added to the misery of SAD (Badal). In fact, this was the point when the old guard raised the flag of rebellion in SAD (Badal).

Senior political analyst Jagtar Singh recently said, “The ironic situation in Punjab is that it is the Hindus and Dalits who decide who would be the Sikh Chief Minister.” He commented, “The main problem while floating a new party would be that of an effective face to command it and all-encompassing agenda.”

While it is still too early to predict the disintegration of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), the party which was relegated to the third position in the last Assembly elections with just 15 of the 117 seats in the Assembly (its ally BJP bagged three), it is undoubtedly staring at a precipice.

The situation is fluid and the next few weeks are likely to provide some clues to the future politics in the state.

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