Chandigarh: In a major coup, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday welcomed back into the party fold rebel veteran leader Ratan Singh Ajnala and his son Amarpal Singh Bony. The father-son duo was expelled from SAD, along with Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sewa Singh Sekhwan, for "anti-party activities" in 2018.
Ajnala and his son returned to the party after Badal visited their residence in Amritsar on Thursday morning. Later in the day, Bony joined Badal on stage at a party SAD rally in Rajasansi.
Welcoming the Ajnalas, Badal expressed his happiness at their rejoining. "It is a family which helped in the rise of the Akali Dal. We were a bit sad when they were not with us for a short time. But today we are a happy family," he said.
Bony had been sending feelers to SAD and was in touch with Badal for the past few days, holding a few meetings with him. Interestingly, Bony had campaigned against Hardeep Singh Puri, the BJP candidate from Amritsar, during the Lok Sabha elections last year.
The former MLA is also known to share a bitter relationship with former minister and MLA Bikram Singh Majithia. On stage in Rajasansi, the two were seen hugging each other.
Bony was twice elected as an MLA in 2007 and 2012 on a SAD ticket. In the last Assembly elections, Bony lost to Harpartap Singh Ajanala.
The comeback of the Ajnalas comes as a major shock to the Taksalis — leaders Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sewa Singh Sekhwan. Rattan Ajnala had joined hands with Brahmpura and Sekhwan when these Akali stalwarts from the Majha region had raised a banner of revolt against Badal in October 2018, demanding a change in party leadership. Subsequently, the core committee of the SAD had expelled the Ajnalas, Brahmpura and Sekhwan from its primary membership for six years.
The father-son duo had gone on to float the SAD (Taksali) as founding members along with Brahmpura and Sekhwan. Rattan Ajnala was made the senior vice-president.
The rejoining of the Ajnalas is also a victory of sorts for Badal whose leadership had run into rough weather following the exit of another veteran Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and his son Parminder Singh Dhindsa.
Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa had opened up a front against the party leadership, especially Badal, in a bid to "liberate" it from the family and "revive its lost glory".
The SAD had then expelled the Dhindsas, throwing the century-old party into a fresh bout of turbulence.