Chandigarh, Punjab: The traditional panthic space within the Shiromani Akali Dal appears to be shrinking. While there are about a dozen Hindu legislators in the Punjab assembly, the party president and the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is believed to be ready with one more similar experiment in the parliamentary elections.
The political grapevine has that the Deputy Chief Minister is seriously contemplating to field two Hindu candidates from Ludhiana and Sangrur. From both the constituencies the Akali Dal so far has fielded only Jat Sikh candidates.
With three seats with BJP and four more reserved and two going to the Hindus, there are only four seats left for the Sikh community in the Akali Dal in Punjab.
The party is learnt to be seriously considering the candidature of leading industrialist Kamal Oswal from Ludhiana, while for Sangrur the names of two leading industrialists Rajinder Gupta of the Trident group and RK Garg are in the reckoning.
Kamal Oswal, the owner of the world famous Monte Carlo group is already the Industrial Advisor to the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, while Rajinder Gupta is the Vice Chairman of the Punjab State Planning Board. Both of them enjoy the rank of the Minister of State.
In Ludhiana Akali Dal is finding it difficult to find a strong candidate who could take on the formidable Minister for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari, whose stature has grown over the years. In the last election he had defeated Gurcharan Singh Galib by a huge margin of 1.10 lakh votes, the second largest victory margin in Punjab at that time.
Actually the Akali Dal does not have a potential candidate from Ludhiana. In the last elections also it got Galib, otherwise a lifelong Congressman, defected from Congress to contest against Tewari. The draught continues till now and it has not been able to groom the right candidate from Ludhiana. Oswal is apparently being groomed and propped for multiple reasons including his capacity to spend money during the elections.
However, same is not the case with Sangrur, where the Akali stalwart and former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has already staked his claim and announced that he will contest the next parliamentary elections from there. Given his age on one side and Sukhbir’s caste calculations on the other, it may be difficult for Dhindsa to get the nomination this time. Last time he lost to Vijay Inder Singla.
Given that Singla belongs to the bania (the traditional business community), Sukhbir is believed to be contemplating someone from the same caste to ensure that the bania vote does not get polarised towards Congress. Both Rajinder Gupta and RK Garg belong to the same caste as that of Singla.
This further shrinks the space for the traditional Akalis supporters within the party as the party president continues with the experimentation of inclusiveness to carry forward and further his pursuit of social engineering and may be the economic and financial engineering as well, given the affluence of candidates under consideration.