The Rise of Badals and fall of Shiromani Akali Dal
New Delhi, May 26: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fought Punjab Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The SAD is led by former Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal's son Sukhbir Singh Badal. As per the alliance understanding, the SAD fielded candidates on 10 seats and the BJP on remaining three seats.
When the election results were announced on May 23 then SAD could win only two seats out of 10 seats it had contested. The BJP won two seats.
Interestingly, two members of the Badal family prevented the party from scoring a zero in the Lok Sabha elections.
Sukhbir Singh Badal won the Ferozpur seat and his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal bagged the Bathinda seat.
While Sukhbir won the Ferozpur seat by a margin of 1,98,850 votes, his wife and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal managed to win Bathinda seat by only 21,772 votes.
The fall of the SAD started after the 2015 desecration incidents of Holy Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent death of two Sikh protestors in the police firing.
Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh had demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and imposition of President's rule in the state. Various SAD politicians resigned from the party. Various members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) also submitted their resignations in protest, accusing the government of failing to protect the holy books.
The golden period of the SAD reached nadir after the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab wherein the 98-year-old party was reduced to only 15 seats in the house of 117.
Captain Amarinder Singh led the Congress to dethrone the SAD from the state. The SAD had almost two years in hands to revive itself for the 2019 Lok Sabha battle, which it couldn't do.
Captain Amarinder Singh did wonders for the Congress party by bagging eight seats in just concluded Lok Sabha elections.
According to a political analyst, the win isn't of the Congress but of Captain Amarinder Singh, who strategically targeted the Badals.
The SAD went into the battle with a weak organisation as many senior leaders had quit the party showing no-confidence in Sukhbir Badal.
The analyst says that apart from the 2015 desecration incidents, palpable anger against the Badals across Punjab is also a major factor for the fall of SAD in Punjab.
"One of the main reasons for the fall of the SAD in Punjab is that people hold the Badal family responsible for the drug menace in the state, which has destroyed young generation. There is not a single village or city in Punjab that has not been affected by the drug menace. The situation has not been improved either in the Congress government," the analyst tells One India on the condition of anonymity.
It's notable that Opposition parties often target Harsimrat's brother Bikram Singh Majithia for his alleged involvement in the drug trade.
Even a film Udta Punjab was released in 2016 ahead of the 2017 assembly elections which highlighted the connection between politicians and drug trade.
It was also one of the reasons that the SAD lost the assembly elections.
Another reason for the fall of the SAD is the exponential financial growth of the Badal clan, a fruit of their politics, says the analyst.
Badals have multi-crore stakes in businesses ranging from transport, hospitality to media.
The fortunes of the Badal family shot up after their entry into transport business which is like a milking cow for the ruling politicians and influential persons in the state.
Some of the companies of Badal family are: Orbit Aviation, Taj Travels Pvt Ltd, Dabwali Transport, Indo-Canadian Transport Company, and Orbit Resorts.
Both Sukhbir Singh Badal and Harsimrat Kaur Badal are major stakeholders in these companies.
The repercussion of this perception is being felt on the election results.
In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the SAD won four seats: Khadoor Sahib, Faridkot, Ferozpur, and Bathinda. Out of total 117 Assembly segments, the SAD got lead in 41.
In 2014, the party won three seats: Khadoor Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, and Bathinda. Its lead in the Assembly segments fell to 29 from 41 in 2009.
This time the lead in the Assembly segments has further decreased from 29 in 2014 to 26.
The analyst opines that given the perception about the Badals in Punjab it won't be easy for them to bounce back in the state in the near future.