Addressing the Shriomani Akali Dal’s ‘Jabar Virodhi’ rally at the home turf of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday, SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal accused him of attempting to take control of gurdwaras, and claimed that the party would do all it can to counter this “conspiracy”. In an attempt to defend party president and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal and to keep the disgruntled Taksali flock together, the former CM also announced honouring Taksali Akali leaders who had spent time in jail for the cause of Punjab in his speech.
The SAD patron asked Sukhbir to hold similar rallies in Doaba and Majha also to “expose” the state’s Congress government. The rally was held at Mehmadpur on the Patiala-Sangrur road.
The Badals attacked Congress and radicals leading the ‘morcha’ at Bargari and accused them for “colluding” with each other to disturb peace and communal harmony of the state, which was “hard earned by BJP and SAD”.
Disgruntled SAD leaders Majha, Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Rattan Singh Ajnala did not attend the rally. Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who had recently quit all SAD posts on “health grounds”, was also not present.
Dhindsa’s son Parminder Singh Dhindsa, SAD general secretary and former finance minister, was present in the rally and in his address hit out at the Congress for not fulfilling its poll promises and using Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission report as a “cover” to divert attention from its “failures”. He said that had the government been serious to punish the guilty it would not have recalled cases back from the CBI.
In his speech, Sukhbir Badal said “many forces were out to weaken SAD”. He added, “No one can weaken SAD. This gathering is with SAD and not with Parkash Singh Badal or Sukhbir Singh Badal. SAD is not a property of the Badals. Today, I have been given the responsibility (to serve as party president), in coming years it would be someone else.”
Veteran SAD leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra and Tota Singh in their addresses did not touch upon the leadership issue even while other party leaders like Sikander Singh Maluka, Bikram Singh Majithia (Sukhbir’s brother-in-law) and Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder showered praise on both Badals.
While Chandumajra and Tota Singh focused on alleged wrongdoings in the panchayat samiti and zila parisahd polls, Maluka declared Sukhbir Badal as the “next chief minister of Punjab”.
Accusing CM Amarinder Singh of putting obstacles in SAD rallies, senior Badal called him a “dictator who was working like Hitler”.
Claiming that Amarinder’s “elders also tried to take control of gurdwaras”, he said people may make Congress win any other election, but “Sangat cannot tolerate that gurdwara administration going into hands of Congress and its stooges. This is their conspiracy. We have to counter this.” Sukhbir said the SAD needed no certificate either from Amarinder Singh or from those sitting at Bargari.
The packed-to-capacity pandal had hoardings of Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir, describing the former as “messiah of poor, labourers, farmers, traders, employees and Punjabis” and latter as “name of development, heartbeat of Punjabis and brave general of Akali Dal”.
The crowd at the rally came from various Assembly segments, majority of them on school buses hired for the purpose.
Punjab BJP president Shwait Malik also attended the rally and was all praise for senior Badal, calling Akali patron as Punjab BJP patron as well.
A team of Youth Akali leaders and Students Organisation of India kept a close watch at the venue, guarding “strategic points”, especially when Sukhbir Badal began his address. The Youth Akali leaders were seen carrying wireless communication devices. A few days back, the convoy of Sukhbir Badal had come under attack in Sangrur district in the run up to the rally.
Calling Congress “atrocities” and “wrongdoings” during Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls as “murder of democracy”, former CM Badal said the same could be replicated in state assembly and parliamentary polls in the future.
Badal asked former SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar to prepare a list of Taksali Akali leaders who remained in jail with him or prior to that, for the interests of Punjab.