M A I N   N E W S

How Sukhbir Badal fashioned SAD win
Naveen S Garewal/TNS

Chandigarh, March 7
Even as the SAD-BJP alliance basks in the glory and prepares to form the government in Punjab, partymen credit SAD president Sukhbir Badal for the historic win.

SAD patron and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal took a backseat in terms of strategy and apparently followed the party president.

Sukhbir was always confident that the alliance would form the government, but he was not sure about the clear verdict till the results started pouring in on March 6.

Days before the counting, Sukhbir was busy contacting Independents, who could win, just in case he required their help to form the government.

Sources in the SAD and the BJP confided that a day before the results, the alliance feared that it could end a few seats short of the magic figure of 59. The BJP’s calculation was 11 seats and the SAD 47.

But Sukhbir kept saying that the alliance would get 70 to 80 seats — maybe just to keep the morale of the partymen high.

He even claimed that the SAD would get enough seats to form the government on its own. He was proved right as the SAD has won 56 seats and has the support of three Independents.

As soon as Manpreet Badal quit SAD, Sukhbir took it as a warning sign and started preparing for the poll in October 2010 — way ahead of all other parties.

The SAD also quietly started holding district-wise meetings without announcing these and reviewed the strengths and weaknesses within its fold. After the BJP suffered a jolt following a CBI raid on some of its leaders, the BJP quietly intensified its poll preparations. But the constituency-wise assessment by Sukhbir and his core team, which included his wife Harsimrat, OSD NS Dhanoa, friend and guide Ajay Mahajan, brother-in-law Bikram Majithia, party spokesperson Dr Daljit Cheema and two senior bureaucrats, made all the difference.

There was a different strategy for each of the 117 segments unlike a single plan for the whole state by other parties. This paid the biggest dividend.

When Sukhbir felt that the SAD would lose both the reserved seats of Kartarpur and Phillaur due to anti-incumbency, he simply swapped the candidates in the two segments. It was being feared in party circles that both candidates — being outsiders — would lose, but SAD ended up winning both seats.

Sukhbir tried a similar experiment in Payal and Maur and ended up on the winning side.

He knew that the contest in Raikot and Khanna would be tough, so he experimented by rotating candidates, thereby giving the Congress a tough fight. Sukhbir never let any worry show on his face even when he was concerned. This infused a lot of confidence in the party cadre.

To cut into the Congress vote, he is reported to have ensured that the BSP fielded candidates on all 117 seats. On some seats, he even funded the candidates. He then propped up dissidents against the Congress nominees and in many cases, funded them to remain afloat. As a result, some 22-odd Congress dissidents ensured the defeat of the Congress on enough seats to keep it out of power.

Winning strategy

n First to start poll preparation

n Separate plan for each Assembly segment

n Fielding and even funding BSP candidates, Cong rebels to cut Congress vote





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