For the first time in 14 months, former SAD general secretary Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal shared stage on Sunday at the Gurdwara Tahliana Sahib in Raikot constituency of Ludhiana district, for the death anniversary of former SGPC and SAD president Jagdev Singh Talwandi.
After September 2018, Dhindsa had never shared stage with Badal on a public platform, even though he was seen in many public functions. In September last year, 82-year-old Dhindsa had resigned from the party’s posts citing health reasons. Last month, he also resigned as a leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Rajya Sabha. Dhindsa was the Rajya Sabha member from Sangrur.
When Sukhbir arrived at the programme, he sat on the floor after paying obeisance at the gurdwara and was later taken to the stage by Ranjit Singh Talwandi, Jagdev Singh Talwandi’s son.
The SAD president sat next to Dhindsa on stage and was even seen asking about the former SAD leader’s health.
Addressing the gathering on the occasion, the SAD president said, “Shiromani Akali Dal is a party which was formed by undertaking many sacrifices. Our past presidents like Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Jagdev Singh Talwandi and even Badal Sahib (his father Parkash Singh Badal) have made it stand tall. Today, I am the president of the party, which is the oldest party of the country. It will be 100-years-old in 2020. Today, I am the president, tomorrow it can be someone else. We need to strengthen the party every single day.”
Sukhbir’s remark seemed to be a retort to former SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra’s statement that “SAD is not a party of any person” but is an institution by itself. “It is a party formed after many struggles and after sitting on many morchas. We need to highlight the contributions made by our past presidents. Party must observe the barsis of all past presidents rather than the family members themselves organising them,” Chandumajra said.
Talwandi was fondly known as ‘Loh Purush’ in Raikot, his native place.
In his speech, Sukhbir said, “From now onwards we will remember the contributions made by all our SAD presidents and other SAD leaders in a special programme organised at Alamgir Sahib Gurdwara in Ludhiana on an annual basis. SAD will be organising this programme from next year onwards.”
Speaking about SAD leaders who were jailed during the various social movements, Badal emphasised his family’s old connection with Dhindsa, and said, “Dhindsa ji and my father had also spent many years in jail.”
Dhindsa however confined himself to remembering Talwandi and his contributions to the party. He said, “As the 550th year of Guru Nanak is being celebrated, I am pained to see separate stages being set up for the occasion. I feel that there should be a common stage.”
Sukhbir blamed Amarinder for the same, saying, “He ( Amarinder) was not even bothered to welcome Nagar Kirtan and is not even bothered about the performance of his government. He failed to deliver any promise mentioned in their manifesto.”
CPI’s state leader Joginder Dayal, who was also present on the occasion, remembered Talwandi for his stand on Anandpur Morcha and Punjabi Suba Morcha. Dayal said, “Although CPI and SAD do not share the same ideology, I respect the former SAD president and his stand on public issues.”
Jagdev Singh Talwandi passed away in September 2014 at the age of 86. Besides being a former SAD and SGPC president, he became the Minister of State in the Punjab Assembly in 1967, after being elected as a legislator from Raikot constituency.
The programme was attended by hundreds of SAD supporters from across the state.