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100 years of SAD: To revive its fortunes, Akali Dal heads back to lucky charm and hotbed of farmers- Moga

To placate people who were angry over sacrilege cases, SAD organized ‘Sadbhavna rally’ on November 28, 2015 at Dana Mandi of Moga, to ‘promote communal harmony and peace in state’.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
December 14, 2021 8:13:00 am
Sukhbir singh Badal (R) Prakash Singh Badal (L) (Express photo)

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will organize a massive rally Tuesday to commemorate the completion of 100 years of party’s foundation and once again, all roads will lead to Moga — a district that holds a special place in Punjab’s political scene.

Over the years, it is not just SAD but also Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that have preferred to start their political campaign from Moga, a centrally located Malwa district in heart of Punjab, and hotbed of farmers and farm union activities.

SAD’s 75th anniversary conference, popularly known as ‘Moga convention’ had proved to be a watershed moment for the party in February 1996 when Akali Dal, broadening its horizon, shifted from being the representative of not just the Sikhs and ‘panth’ but that of all communities in Punjab. From radical approach to moderate, the party refurbished itself as a non-supporter of terrorism, to woo Hindu and other communities, after years of Khalistan extremism that the state witnessed. The slogan that came out was ‘Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat’. In 1997, SAD-BJP alliance stormed to power in Punjab with Parkash Singh Badal as the chief minister.

In 2006 and 2011, SAD had kickstarted its poll campaign from Moga for 2007 and 2012 polls, respectively, and stormed to power for consecutive terms.

For Akali Dal, however, it is not just Moga but particularly village Killi Chahlan, from where the party had launched its major campaigns and rallies ahead of polls. On Tuesday, party patriarch Parkash Singh Badal is expected to address the public gathering as party completes 100 years — it was founded on December 14, 1920. SAD’s new ally for Punjab polls, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will also participate.

While SAD-BJP had stormed to power in 2012 after starting their campaign with a ‘Maha Vikas’ rally at Killi Chahlan on December 18, 2011, the Moga lucky charm did not work in 2017 when Congress swept to power with majority, banking on anger against Badals due to sacrilege and drugs.

To placate people who were angry over sacrilege cases, SAD organized ‘Sadbhavna rally’ on November 28, 2015 at Dana Mandi of Moga, to ‘promote communal harmony and peace in state’.

On 89th birthday of Parkash Singh Badal, SAD again held massive ‘Paani Bachao, Punjab Bachao’ rally at Killi Chahlan ahead of state polls on December 8, 2016, on SYL canal issue, during the peak of water dispute with Haryana. The rally portrayed Badal as ‘savior of Punjab waters’ and with one of the largest farming community base, Moga was again chosen as the venue. But SAD-BJP faced crushing defeat in 2017 against Congress, and wasn’t even the main opposition after securing lesser seats than Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

With the party now again launching its campaign for 2022 polls with Tuesday’s rally, veteran SAD leader from Moga, Tota Singh said that the district is chosen for launch of the campaign because of its location advantage. “It is an easily approachable district from Majha, Malwa and Doaba regions because it is located in heart of Punjab. Also, in Killi Chahlan village, we get ample land and there is no parking space issue. We won in 1997, 2007 and in 2012 after launching campaigns from Moga. There is a gurdwara located right in front of the venue at Killi Chahlan where we do ardaas before going on stage.”
His son Barjinder Makhan Brar, who is SAD candidate from Moga for 2022 polls, said, “We have taken nearly 100 acres of land on rent for a day from farmers. We have paid them accordingly so that they do not suffer any losses.”

When it comes to Punjab politics, it is not just SAD but also Congress and AAP which prefer Moga to launch their campaigns.

Ahead of Punjab polls 2017, when a rebellion was brewing inside Congress against then state partyb chief Partap Singh Bajwa and demand was to replace him with Captain Amarinder Singh, the ‘Captain Liyao, Punjab Bachao’ rally was held at Baghapurana of Moga, where the then Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha, Sunil Jakhar, had said, “The writing is on the wall and Captain Amarinder Singh is going to be the next CM. He is the only one who can save Punjab from drugs and corruption. He is the savior of waters of Punjab, now he has to be the one of entire Punjab.”

On September 11, 2016, even the AAP chose Baghapurana to launch its ‘Kisan manifesto’ for farmers for 2017 polls and party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal addressed that rally. It was followed by Captain Amarinder Singh’s ‘Kisan Yatra’ in October to woo farmers.

Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress again launched its campaign for parliamentary elections from Moga and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed ‘Mission 13’ rally at Killi Chahlan. Earlier named ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ rally as a tribute to Pulwama martyrs, it was renamed as ‘Mission 13’. Congress won 8 of 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab.

And most recently, after the massive protest started against three farm laws by farmers in Punjab and Haryana, both Congress and AAP chose Moga to woo farmers ahead of polls.

On October 4, 2020, Rahul Gandhi held ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’ with then CM Captain Amarinder Singh and interacted with farmers before addressing a rally in Badhni Kalan. He also had a tractor ride with Punjab Congress leaders.

This year on March 21, the AAP sounded poll bugle in Punjab by organizing ‘Kisan Maha Sammelan’ – a rally dedicated to farmers and in support of their protest against three farm laws at Baghapurana, where Kejriwal said that he had come to “salute farmers of Punjab who were first to raise their voice against three farm laws”.

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