There are approximately 10 lakh Sikh voters in the national capital who impact the outcome in 10 Assembly seats.
New Delhi: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a member of the BJP-led National Democ-ratic Alliance at the Centre, said on Monday that owing to disagreements with the Bharatiya Janata Party over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), they have decided not to contest the February 8 Assembly elections in Delhi.
The Akalis had contested the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections as an ally of the BJP. Of the four seats SAD contested, it won one in bypolls. The BJP won three seats in the 70-member Assembly. There are approximately 10 lakh Sikh voters in the national capital who impact the outcome in 10 Assembly seats.
The strain on the Akali-BJP ties had also increased over the use of election symbols. The BJP reportedly wanted the Akali Dal candidates to contest under its symbol — the lotus — instead of the SAD’s election symbol, weighing scales. The two parties had used the same strategy in the 2015 Delhi election when two of its four candidates contested under the lotus.
Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, SAD’s sitting MLA from Rajouri Garden, said, “We have opted out as we refused to change our stand on including Muslims in the Citizen-ship (Amendment) Act.”
The BJP had questioned SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s stand on the CAA. “We were questioned on SAD leadership’s stand on the Citizenship (Amend-ment) Act and were told at three meetings that this was not the BJP stand… The party was asked to reconsider the stand on including Muslims in the CAA. We have not budged. Our stand is clear that country cannot be divided on the basis of religion. The Akali Dal does not favour the National Register of Citizens.”
Mr Sirsa, who was accompanied by SAD Delhi unit president Harmeet Singh Kalka, added, “Shiromani Akali Dal today declared that it would rather not contest elections in Delhi than sacrifice the interests of the minorities or compromise on the secular principles taught to us by the great Guru Sahiban. Accordingly, the SAD declared that it would stay away from the electoral process in the forthcoming Assembly poll in Delhi.”
Both Mr Sirsa and Mr Kalka said there were strong ideological differences between the BJP and the SAD. “We want Muslims to be included in CAA… And we are firmly opposed to NRC.”
The two leaders said differences on this sensitive and critical issue came to the fore during the debate on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 which was passed in Parliament.
Mr Kalka said, “Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal took a principled on this issue during the debate, standing by the minorities and upholding the principles of secularism in the spirit of sarbat da bhala. The same stand was repeated by Akali Dal by Balwinder Singh Bhunder in Rajya Sabha also. That stand is non-negotiable. The Muslim community must not be left out of the CAA process as leaving them out would go against the basic principles of Shiromani Akali Dal and the great teachings of our great Gurus.”
The SAD had voted for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It has two MPs in Lok Sabha and three in Rajya Sabha.
This is the second time, after Haryana, that seat-sharing talks between the SAD and the BJP have failed. The SAD went solo in the Haryana Assembly elections after its lone legislator in the state switched sides to join the saffron party.
In Delhi, the BJP has already forged an alliance with Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) on two and one seat, respectively. Both the JD(U) and the LJP are BJP’s alliance partners in Bihar where Assembly elections will be held in October.