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Poll outreach on halt, Akalis now in ‘open confrontation’ with farm leaders

Senior Akali leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said the party leaders who went to Delhi “did not have any personal interests but wanted to raise the voice of the farmers”.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal. (File)

Having put on hold its constituency wise “Gall Punjab Di” outreach following a meeting with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) earlier this month, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is now in an open confrontation with farm leaders alleging that they did not take any action against the “hooligans disguised as protestors” who prevented party leaders and activists from reaching Delhi to be a part of September 17 march against the three central agri laws.

The move, however, has not gone down well with farm leaders with Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) chief Balbir Singh Rajewal terming as “frustration” the Akali leadership’s remarks.

“They (Akalis) have nothing to do. They are only trying to harm the farm agitation. Had they any sympathy with the morcha, they should have got in touch (with us) if anything wrong was done to any of their activists,” Rajewal told the The Indian Express.

He said that Akali Dal was only indulging in “blame game” aimed “at weakening the farm agitation.”
Secretary general of SAD’s Kisan Wing, Gurpartap Singh Wadala, said, “It is all biased treatment against Akali Dal. Whatever Rajewal is saying is wrong. Instead of indulging in blame game, Rajewal should have tendered an apology for what hooligans did to Akali leaders in guise of farm protests when they were on the way to attend September 17 protest march in Delhi.”

On Monday, senior Akali leadership had presented in front of media various activists, including a dharma fauji – a former army man having deserted the force in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984 – a sitting SGPC member, and others who alleged that they were stopped from going to Delhi for party march to oppose three farm laws by “goons” disguised as farm activists.

“They intimidated Akali activists, hurled abuses at them, made fun of them. The religious beliefs of the Sikhs were hurt. People felt bad. Some agencies or groups appear to be working against Akali Dal to torpedo its interests,” added Wadala.

Asserting that despite Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigning from the Union Cabinet and Akali Dal walking out of the alliance with the BJP over farm laws, the partv “was being held responsible for everything (enactment of the three laws),” Wadala said.

Senior Akali leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said the party leaders who went to Delhi “did not have any personal interests but wanted to raise the voice of the farmers”.

Chandumajra added, “We extended our support to farm agitation with honesty and we are still doing that. Those who opposed Akali activists while they were on the way to Delhi were mischievous elements among the agitating farmers, something Rajewal has himself admitted. Rajewal has pointed to the role of agencies, which want to derail the agitation at the Centre’s behest.”

Chandumajra added that it was the responsibility of those leading the agitation to keep such elements at bay.

SAD Kisan Wing chief Sikander Singh Maluka also expressed anguish over Akali activists being humiliated. “Farm unions should have criticized it. However, the farm unions are only targeting Akali Dal and not the leaders of other parties such as Congress and AAP. It is unfortunate,” said Maluka.

Party spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “It was alleged that videos of the incident where Akalis were attacked were made viral by the party. We have clarified that the videos were made viral by elements who attacked the Akali activists.”

While referring to Akali Dal putting on hold the ‘Gal Punjab Di’ outreach, Cheema added, “It is unfortunate that despite us showing the grace, our workers were targeted.”

First off the blocks to launch the political campaign, SAD earlier this month had first postponed for six days the ‘Gal Punjab Di’ programme where party president Sukhbir Badal was to address rallies in all 117 Assembly constituencies over 100 days. The party had halted the programme following a strong protest by farmers against Badal in Moga.

After talks with the SKM, the Akali Dal had put the outreach campaign on hold indefinitely as farm leaders said that all political parties should wait for Election Commission to announce the dates for the Punjab polls and in the meantime support farm agitation.

Subsequently, Akali Dal officially announced party candidates for 64 constituencies. After breaking alliance with BJP on the issue of farm laws, Akali Dal has tied up with Bahujan Samaj Party and as per seat sharing arrangement would contest on 97 out of total 117 seats. BSP will contest on remaining 20 seats.

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