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SHIROMANI AKALI DAL LEAVING NDA. IS IT A TEMPORARY PHASE?

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With Shiromani Akali Dal leaving the Bharatiya janata party led National democratic alliance (NDA) on the farm bills, this fifty three years long relationship between Akali Dal and BJP/ Bhartiya Jana Sangh came to an end. Temporary or permanent, this remains to be seen. This alliance survived for fifty years under the leadership of Parkash Singh Badal who enjoyed five terms as chief minster Punjab while representing this alliance , first with Bhartiya Jana Sangh and then with BJP. Without Akalis, Jan Sangh/ BJP could never be part of a ministry in Punjab. And without BJP/Jana Sangh, Akalis could never dream of getting a berth in union cabinet. Both remained electorally under achiever in Punjab and it remains to be seen how they survive in electoral politics of Punjab in future days.

FIRST TIME IN MARCH 1967

Shiromani Akali Dal –Jana Sangh alliance came in to existence for the first time on March 8, 1967 while forming United Front Ministry under the leadership of Justice Gurnam Singh. It was first non congress government of Punjab. It was post poll alliance which came in to existence due to Sant Fateh Singh, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, who had projected himself as ambassador of Hindu-Sikh unity.

There were 104 seats in Punjab legislative Assembly in reorganized Punjab. In 1967,Jan Sangh contested election on 49 seats and won 9 seats. Due to its struggle to get a place for Hindi in reorganized Punjabi suba, it had consolidated its position among Punjabi urban Hindus. Dr. Baldev Parkash was the first leader from Jana sangh who became finance minister in this historic alliance.

Bharatiya Jana Sangh entered in to first poll alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal in mid-term elections held in February 1969. Shiromani Akali Dal contested 65 and won 43 while Jana Sangh contested 30 seats and 8 seats. Shiromani Akali Dal emerged as the single largest party in Punjab assembly for the first time in history. Jana Sangh agreed to join government on the condition of recognizing Hindi as national link language. This time, Balramji Das Tandon and Krishan Lal joined as ministers under Justice Gurnam Singh while Dr. Baldev Parkash was the party president in state. Manmohan Kalia first refused to accept ministry as he was upset over the issue of Hindi as medium of instruction in private schools. Balramji Das Tandon too expressed displeasure over the government behaving like a Sikh panthic body. SAD punctured Jana Sangh’s claim to be sole spokesman for Punjabi Hindus while it gave a ministerial berth to Radha Krishan, a congress defector.

GURU NANAK DEV UNIVERSITY LED TO SPLIT

On March 25, 1970 Akali Legislative party elected development minister Parkash Singh Badal as its leader replacing Justice Gurnam Singh. This is how this grand old man of alliance began to preside over this political alliance for next fifty years. While taking oath as Chief Minister on March 26, 1970, for the first time, Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal started his career as five time chief minister with the help of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. It may be interesting to recall that newly formed Guru Nanak University (original name of GNDU) was the reason behind first split in this alliance.

Punjab government had ordered the affiliation of colleges of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Kapurthala with Guru Nanak University while DAV management did not want to disaffiliate its colleges with Panjab University Chandigarh. Jana Sangh demanded that jurisdiction of Guru Nanak University must be curtailed and a new Dayanand University must be established at Jalandhar. On June 28, Shiromani Akali Dal refused to accept these demands and two days later, Jana Sangh resigned from Parkash Singh Badal Led ministry and continued issue based support to the government.

After this, every government formed under the leadership of Parkash Singh Badal made it sure that BJS/BJP remains integral part of coalition. In 1977, Janta Coalition was the first non Congress government at the Centre. Parkash Singh Badal played crucial role in bringing them together. Morarji Bhai Desai invited Dhanna Singh Gulsahn, a Dalit Sikh and a great scholar to join union cabinet. In July 1979 both Akali ministers of Janta coalition resigned citing Morarji Bhai’s unsympathetic attitude towards the issues of Punjab.

Replace Narendra Bhai with Morarji Bhai and see how history has repeated itself.

Parkash Singh Badal has very often stated that Akali- BJP relation is a husband-wife like relation. History has shown that they can part their ways for sometime, but their separation never culminates in to a divorce. Current walk away from NDA is merely a separation, one should not read it like an end of road for long journey, which began 53 years ago.


About the author:
Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill

Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill The writer, Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill teaches Political Science at SGTB Khalsa College, North Campus, Delhi University. He’s also a Convener, of a course committee on social sciences, in Central board of secondary education (CBSE). Apart from short stories, he writes on Punjab politics and Sikh history. He has authored six books in Punjabi and English. Non-Congress Politics in Punjab (2015), 1708 Dasam Guru di Dakhan Feri (2017) and Kes History of Sikhs and other Essays (2020) are some of his better known works. He can be reached at: amanpreetdu@gmail.com

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