The Congress party is in talks with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and other Left parties in Punjab to form an alliance similar to the Grand Alliance in Bihar in the run-up to the Assembly elections early next year. The BSP, which has a significant presence in the state, is, however, weighing its options.
Invigorated by the merger of Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress on Friday, the Congress is looking to form a broad-based alliance of “secular” parties in Punjab.
Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, who is touted to be the chief ministerial candidate from the Congress party, on Friday said: “We are now looking for a broad-based alliance for the next election. We are trying to get all secular parties together against the fundamentalist forces.” Questioned whether they are looking to form a Bihar-like grand alliance in Punjab with the BSP and Left parties, Amarinder Singh said, “Nothing has been agreed upon yet. The strategy will be finally decided by the Central leadership. We have been in touch with local leaders of BSP and Left parties. But a Bihar-like result is possible if we plan our strategy carefully. The tide is against the Akalis and the BJP.”
A source close to Singh said: “Captain has been speaking to local leaders of BSP, CPI and CPI(M). We want to forge a strong alliance. A tie-up similar to that in Bihar is fruitful for all the parties. There has been a huge increase in crime and anti-incumbency is a big concern for Parkash Singh Badal. We are in a better position than last time. The Congress wants to put up a strong front against the BJP-SAD combine.”
BSP leaders in Punjab said that the Congress has approached them for a coalition, but at the moment they are weighing their options and deliberating on whether to accept an offer or not.
“We have been approached by people from the Congress party and we are weighing our options. We want to consolidate BSP’s presence in Punjab, and we might accept Congress’ proposal for an alliance. This is a good opportunity for us. The people of Punjab want a change and a strong alliance will give a good fight to the BJP-Akali Dal alliance,” Punjab BSP chief Avtar Singh Karimpuri told The Sunday Guardian.
“We still have not decided about the alliance. We are having internal discussions. Things might change in a few months. We still have a long time to go for the elections. But if such an alliance is able to trump the ruling parties and all members can agree on the fundamental agendas, we might accept. We need a good proposal from the Congress,” said the state BSP chief.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has, however, gained a lot from the anti-incumbency factor in Punjab due to the rise in crimes and controversies against the Badal government. If sources are to be believed, AAP is likely to become a strong contender, which may make the contest triangular. “We have done a lot of ground work here in Punjab. The party has been diligent in its functioning and the people also want a change. They can see how we have stabilised the sinking ship in Delhi. We are confident that AAP will sweep this election,” AAP MP from Punjab, Bhagwant Mann told this newspaper. “We are also trying to consolidate the pro-change votes. The party is getting support from all sections and its position is strong,” he added.