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HVK Archives: BJP marries SAD in Punjab with an eye on Delhi

BJP marries SAD in Punjab with an eye on Delhi - The Asian Age

Parwez Hafeez ()
5 February 1997

Title : BJP marries SAD in Punjab with an eye on Delhi
Author : Parwez Hafeez
Publication : The Asian Age
Date : February 5, 1997

The stridency with which everyone from the incumbent Prime Minister
Mr H.D. Deve Gowda to the aspiring Prime Minister Mr Sitaram Kesri
have been lashing out against what they dub as "an unholy alliance"
between the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal group) and the Bharatiya
Janata Party, it is becoming increasingly clear that the alliance
is heading for a victory in the forthcoming Assembly elections in

The leaders of the Congress, United Front, Left Front and the
various Akali groups may call SAD-BJP coalition a marriage of
convenience but they can not deny the fact that this betrothed
couple is receiving blessings from people aplenty and their wedding
on Friday is expected to be attended by multitudes of baraatis.

If there is any truth in the old saying "The morning shows the
day," the prospect of a SAD-BJP combine electoral triumph had
become clear on December 1 last year when a joint rally addressed
by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Prakash Singh Badal in Ludhiana
turned out to be the mother of all rallies.

Those who find it a little hard to accept the partnership of these
two political parties who are apparently upholders of two
conflicting and contradictory ideologies perhaps do not know that
way back in 1970, a coalition government of the Akalis and the
earlier avatar of the BJP, the Jan Sangh had ruled Punjab.
Interestingly, that ministry was also headed by the present SAD
president and projected chief minister, Mr Badal.

In the past quarter century much water has flowed down the rivers
of Punjab. But the BJP has been, all along, relentlessly and
assiduously striving to woo and win over the Sikh support. Even
when the terrorism was at its peak, the BJP leaders directed their
wrath at the Congress government and not at the militant Sikhs.
Such outrageous acts like the dragging out of Hindu passengers from
buses and their cold-blooded slaughter did not outrage the
champions of Hindutva. Even the frequent killings of the BJP
workers, during Murli Manohar Joshi's Ekta Yatra five BJP workers
were shot dead near Phagwara, failed to incite any retaliation from
the Sangh Parivar.

This exemplary patience and stoicism in the face of extreme
provocations combined with the untiring zeal with which the BJP
espoused the cause of the anti-Sikh riot victims paid rich
dividends. The crucial Sikh vote facilitated a victory for the BJP
in Delhi Assembly elections in 1993.

It must be said to the BJP's credit that after assuming power in
Delhi the Party did not forget its poll pledge. It spared no
effort in bringing the perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh pogrom to
book. This action helped in consolidating the Sikh trust in the
BJP and at the same time it further alienated the community from
the Congress because of the confirmation of the charges of
complicity of several Congress leaders in the carnage.

Prakash Singh Badal correctly read these significant ground
realities. When the last Lok Sabha elections threw up a hung
Parliament, every political party like the proverbial dog, had its
day and wanted its pound of flesh before offering its support to
the United Front. The BJP, despite the best effort of its
high-profile leaders, failed to add even one MP to its original
list. The Shiromani Akali Dal could have asked for the moon and
would probably have got it. But Mr Badal stunned everyone by
offering his party's unconditional support to Mr Vajpayee led first
BJP government at the Centre.

The SAD (Badal) won a landslide in the very important Shiromani
Gurdwara Prabandkar Committee elections with BJP support and
recently the SAD-BJP combine won 15 out of 20 seats in the
Chandigarh municipal polls.

The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that a SAD-BJP victory in
the Friday polls, is a foregone conclusion. However, before
indulging in some premature euphoria at this seemingly most
rewarding association with the winning horse in Punjab, the BJP
leaders must, ponder over a few unpalatable truths.

It is clear that the cause of the BJP leaders' delight is not only
the short-term gains in a small state. They must be hoping that
this association will prove extremely fruitful in the next general
elections which, they seem to be certain, will be held later this
year. Although having an eye on their own future is no sin;
glossing over the SAD's past definitely is.

In their attempt to brush aside the uncomfortable and. thorny issue
of Anandpur Sahib resolution, the BJP leaders have tied themselves
up in knots. Take for instance this stock response: the BJP has
always advocated greater degree of autonomy for the states.

Who are they trying to fool? If they are trying to fool the people
then they are certainly not doing it for the first time. Their
entire Ramjanmabhoomi movement was built on such deceits and
subterfuge. But if they are trying to silence their own troubling
conscience by this feeble explanation then they are certainly
shutting their eyes from reality. Surely Mr Advani and Mr Vajpayee
need not be informed about the difference between "autonomy" and
"secessionism." And pray, how can the self-proclaimed ardent
nationalists join hands with a man who once burnt the national flag
and the Constitution of the country?

Even if the Anandpur Sahib resolution is not part of the common
minimum programme, it is incorporated in the poll manifesto of the
SAD. If the BJP leaders are confident after coming to power they
will succeed in persuading their allies to keep this contentious
issue on the back burner, then there is no need for alarm. But one
prospect they must not lose sight of is that out of the total 117
seats in the Punjab legislature, they are contesting only 23 seats
and the Akalis have 96 seats. If the latter manages to win 59
seats - which may seem a little difficult but is not outside the
realm of possibility - then will the position of the BJP not become
ineffective if not irrelevant in the new government? And if to
counter the militant rabble-rousing of say Simranjit Singh Mann,
tomorrow Mr Badal decides to once again open the Pandora's box of
the Anandpur Sahib resolution, will the BJP be able to restrain
him? The BJP leaders must think over these possibilities.

POSTSCRIPT: One interesting fallout of this alliance seems to have
gone unnoticed. The Punjab Assembly polls have achieved a small
miracle by turning sectarian forces into secular forces. So far,
the BJP's strategy during the campaigns to every elections have
been inciting passions and dividing the society along communal
lines to reap electoral dividends. In Punjab, the BJP's mantra is
unity between the Hindus and the Sikhs.

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