The SAD and the JDU, BJP's alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), play an crucial role in Delhi, but the influence of these alliances goes beyond national capital
Delhi election is the first electoral test for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the stir against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC). That this was going to be one of the issues during campaigning is something that the BJP expected, and perhaps even wanted.
What the saffron party probably did not expect, however, was the alliance trouble that it would be facing ahead of the polls. While Delhi is considered to be a three-way contest between BJP, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress (with the fight now increasingly between BJP and AAP, as observers have pointed out), alliances do play a role in the elections.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Janata Dal United (JDU), BJP's alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), for instance, play a crucial role in Delhi.
While SAD's influence is concentrated in the dozen or so seats that have Sikh population, inclusion of the JD(U) caters to the Purvanchali voters in the national capital— which reflects in the two seats given to the party: Burari and Sangam Vihar.
While reports had suggested that the Akali Dal might be offered four seats to contest from, the problem started after talks between the two parties failed, and the SAD announced that it was backing out from the elections.
What was even more troublesome, from the point of view of the BJP, was the Akali Dal's reason for breaking the alliance: the party's leader, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, had said the BJP had asked his party to "reconsider" its stance on CAA, which the SAD had declined to do.
"During our meeting with the BJP, we were asked to reconsider our stand on CAA but we declined to do so. Shiromani Akali Dal is of the firm stand that Muslims cannot be left out of CAA," Sirsa had said, adding that the Akali Dal is also "strongly against the NRC".
Reports had, however, suggested that there was more to the BJP-SAD tussle than ideological differences. According to a report by India Today, the two parties had a fallout over election symbol.
The report suggests that while SAD had contested the 2015 elections on BJP symbol, it wanted to use its own symbol during the forthcoming polls, a proposition to which the BJP did not agree.
The BJP had similar problems with the JD(U), which has been blowing hot and blowing cold ahead of the Bihar assembly polls later this year. The Purvanchali population, accounting for about 30 percent of Delhi's voter base, can influence the outcome of the elections.
Moreover, the polls in Delhi may also impact the polls in Bihar. Keeping these factors in mind, the BJP had, for the first time, formed a pre-poll alliance with the JD(U).
Forming that alliance, however, was not without its set of glitches, with Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar coming under attack from his own partymen for the tie-up. Senior JD(U) leaders Pavan Varma and Prashant Kishor questioned the alliance, particularly after Kumar's stand on NRC, which he had opposed.
With the expulsion of both Varma and Kishor from the party, Kumar made it clear which way he was leaning, at least for the time being.
The BJP has also managed to get SAD to come around. BJP president JP Nadda on January 29 announced that SAD would support the saffron party and that "misunderstandings" between the two allies have been sorted. The Akali Dal also said it has been supporting the CAA "from the beginning".
Again, for the BJP, ironing out the differences with SAD was more important from the perspective of another election— Punjab assembly polls, scheduled for 2022— than the immediate Delhi polls.
However, observers have noted that getting one of its traditional allies' support back— particularly on a contentious issue— plays well for the BJP in terms of the optics. Moreover, it will also help the saffron party in SAD's areas of influence in the national capital.
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