'Akali Dal is Not a Fiefdom of Badals': How 'Nepotism' Has Brought SAD in the Eye of Political Storm
SAD patriarch and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who had virtually resigned from active politics, has been forced to come out of political hibernation, and is trying to salvage the party in this hour of crisis.
File photo of Parkash Singh Badal.
Chandigarh: The simmering tensions within the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab have now come to the fore with veteran leaders raising a banner of revolt against the Badals.
Three Taksali leaders, or the old guard of the party, Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and ex-minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan have sought resignation of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The rebellion comes at a time when the party is reeling under the worst political crisis since its inception.
It all began with Justice (retd.)Ranjit Singh Commission’s report which was tabled in the state Assembly in August end. The Commission had indicted former chief minister and SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, and his son and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for their alleged role in exonerating Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and for the sacrilege and firing incidents in Behbal Kala and Kotkapura.
With the ‘Panthic’ image of the party having suffered a major blow, SAD patriarch and former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, who had virtually resigned from active politics, has been forced to come out of political hibernation, and is trying to salvage the party in this hour of crisis.
But the seeds of discontent in the party, overwhelmingly dominated by the father-son duo, were sown as early as 2017. When Parkash Singh Badal bid adieu to active politics, he had handed over the baton of the party to his son and former deputy chief minister Sukbhir Singh Badal, much to the chagrin of the senior leaders who felt ignored.
Leading the ‘revolt’ are Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan. The three on September 30 had held a closed door meeting in Amritsar.
The dissidents have alluded at the growing nepotism in the party as one of the reasons for the comprehensive drubbing in the last elections.
“Je Centre te vazir banai hai, te apni nuu banana hai, saade senior bandeyan to puchya ni... Je Punjab vich deputy cm banana hai, te apna munda banana hai, Jawain to lagatar vazir rakhna hai... Sannu pata ni Majithia kithon to aya ajj kithey pahunch gya... (If you want a minister at the Centre, it will be your daughter-in-law. We senior leaders are never consulted. If anyone has to be made a deputy chief minister in Punjab, it has to be your son... Majithia has to be kept as a minister continuously. Don’t we know where Majithia has come from and where has he reached now,” a miffed Ajnala said recently.
He was training his guns at Bikram Singh Majethia, former minister and brother-in-law of Sukhbir Singh Badal.
“AKali Dal, Na Sukbhir da, na Badal da. Akali Dal lokan da hai... Asis lokaan wich saare program bana ke jawange te apni feeling nu lokaan the gharan tak pahunchawange... Aakali Dal bachao lehar hogi... (Akali Dal is not a fiefdom of the Badals. It belongs to the people. We will go amongst the masses and share our feelings with them. We will initiate an Akali Dal bachao campaign)," added Ajnala.
A meeting of the SAD core committee was held in Chandigarh which endorsed his leadership, thwarting the move of the rebels. “They are my elders. They are my family members. I have no problems with anybody,” said Sukhbir in an attempt play down the deadlock.
These leaders come from Majha region of Punjab and were members of the all powerful party core committee.
Brahmpura now is busy mobilising support for his rally at historic Chohla Sahib village in Tarn Taran district on November 4, a move seen as a show of strength.
The dissidence in SAD has been simmering for a while now. Earlier, former education minister Tota Singh and Lok Sabha member Prem Singh Chandumajra questioned the decision of the SAD leadership to boycott the debate on Commission report in the Punjab Assembly.
Soon after, former SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar disclosed how he was not consulted prior to granting pardon to the Dera chief.
On September 29, veteran Taksali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa dealt a major blow to the SAD, announcing his resignation from all party positions. He had citied ‘deteriorating health’ as the reason. Dhindsa had encouraged others like Brahmpura and Ajnala to voice their concerns in a party where the word ‘dissent’ was seldom heard.
Dhindsa, along with Brahmpura, Ajnala and Sekhwan have chosen to be away from SAD’s rallies and meetings since. Though Sukhbir has tried to reach out to them, they are keen on meeting the patriarch only.
Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, speaking on the issue, equated Parkash Singh Badal to Dhritrashtra saying he was “blind to the reality”.
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