Political positioning: Akalis explore opposition turf with federal and regional planks

SAD sources said in due course they would also broach the idea of the party forming an alliance with BSP and Left parties, which have pockets of influence in Punjab, for the state assembly polls.

BCCL
SAD’s exercise is clearly designed to get acclimatised to the larger opposition political turf after having been in the saffron orbit since 1996.
New Delhi: Within a month of quitting the Union Cabinet and the BJP-led NDA over the contentious farms legislations, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has initiated a process for a new political positioning by attempting an image make-over. The SAD leadership has started reaching out to regional parties by floating the idea of launching a common platform for “safeguarding federal principles” against “the attempts to create a unitary system” by BJP and the central government, it is learnt. Part of this attempt is also to explore finding new allies in Punjab for the 2022 assembly polls.

The Badals-led SAD leadership has constituted a three-member committee comprising party general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra and Rajya Sabha members Naresh Gujral and Balwinder Singh Bhunder to initiate such talks with regional parties. They have already held “exploratory” talks with senior parliamentarians of regional parties such as Sharad Pawar of NCP, Bhartruhari Mahtab of BJD, Tiruchi Siva of DMK, Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena and TDP. They intend to contact more parties, including BSP, TMC, TRS and the Left.

SAD sources said in due course they would also broach the idea of the party forming an alliance with BSP and Left parties, which have pockets of influence in Punjab, for the state assembly polls. Chandumajra told ET: “Federalism, which is a core functional principle in the Indian state, is being systematically weakened by BJP and its government at the Centre which are no more interested in regional parties and regional sentiment. Their attempt is to replace federalism with a unitary system and the recent farm legislations, the denial of GST dues to the states and empowering central investigating agencies such as NIA with additional powers in the name of cyber crimes are all part of these attempts to encroach upon the powers and domains of the states”.


He added: “The SAD is now in talks with regional parties on the need to join hands to fight to safeguard federal principles and regional sensitivities. We have spoken to many, including Pawarji of NCP, Mahtabji of BJD and representatives of DMK and the Sena. We will contact more leaders.” When contacted, Mahtab said some SAD leaders had recently met him and Raut too said “the SAD leaders like Gujral are in touch with us”.

The SAD leaders are also stressing on the party’s “secular” and “minority party” identities and recalling their opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. “To ensure a healthy democracy in the country, federalism and secular values are sacrosanct. Otherwise, there would be a danger of balkanisation of the country,” Gujral told ET.

SAD’s exercise is clearly designed to get acclimatised to the larger opposition political turf after having been in the saffron orbit since 1996. Having Congress as its turf-rival in Punjab, SAD’s new assertion on “the identity and unity of regional parties” is also designed to position along the possible non-BJP and non-Congress alignments.
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Akalis Explore Oppn Turf with Federal & Regional Planks

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