October 1, 2021 8:50:06 am
FORCED TO halt its election campaign programme ‘Gal Punjab Di’ after Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) earlier this month asked political parties to support the farm agitation and not start their poll campaign till the Election Commission declared the schedule for 2022 Punjab elections, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has started its public outreach programme in a new avatar – hitting the ground on various issues concerning Punjab peasantry and also using the platforms to attack ruling Congress government on various other issues.
On Wednesday, SAD president Sukhbir Badal led a tractor march to protest against “extremely low awards being given to farmers to acquire their lands for various road projects under the Bharat Mala project”. Though police stopped the march — which was planned to proceed to Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s residence — near the Mohali-Chandigarh border, Sukhbir ensured that he took political potshots. He hit out at the Congress government for “not ensuring adequate compensation” to farmers for land being acquired for the Delhi-Katra expressway and other roads under the Bharat Mala Project.
Stating that during the erstwhile Akali Dal led government, then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had been very liberal in awarding compensation for acquired land, Sukhbir promised that if the SAD-BJP government is voted to power, farmers would be given similar compensation. Apart from this, Sukhbir also hit out at Congress for the ongoing infighting, calling it “a fight for the chair”. He also raked up the alleged scholarship scam and asked why the Channi-led government was not putting those responsible behind bars.
On October 3, Akali Dal has scheduled another rally in Bathinda on the issue of pink bollworm attack on cotton crop. According to senior Akali leader Sarup Chand Singla, who is party nominee from Bathinda for the upcoming elections, the rally would primarily witness participation from Bathinda and Mansa, the two cotton districts of Malwa affected most by the pest attack. To be held in Thermal Colony ground, Singla said Sukhbir, Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal and several other senior leaders of the party would attend the rally.
“If we have been stopped from organising ‘Gall Punjab Di’, the party has found another way. No one can object to such rallies where Akali Dal will take up farmers’ and people’s issues,” said a senior Akali leader.
SAD Kisan Wing Secretary General Gurpartap Singh Wadala said, “Akali Dal is a farmers’ party and we will continue to raise their issues. That is why a rally on the issue of inadequate compensation to farmers was held on Wednesday and another would be held in Bathinda on October 3 on the issue of pink bollworm attack.”
While furthering its poll campaign, Akali Dal, through such rallies, is also making desperate attempts to woo back the peasantry, which it considers as its core constituency, but which is angry over the three farm laws enacted by the Centre. Even the resignation of Harsimrat as Union Cabinet minister on the issue has not resulted in Akali Dal getting any traction to get support from the farming community.
This, because farmers say that the top Akali Dal leadership, including SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Badal and Harsimrat Badal, had initially tried to defend the farm laws. It is widely perceived that Harsimrat was left with no choice but to resign as Union Cabinet minister following widespread agitation and anger among the farming community over the three farm laws and when it became politically untenable, for the party to snap ties with alliance partner BJP.
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