The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has set a minimum target of 7,000 people per assembly constituency, which it hopes will help it gather over a lakh people for the party’s first Sadhbhawna rally to be held in Bathinda, which has 15 constituencies, on November 23.
Bathinda will play host to the first of six rallies that the party has envisaged as a damage-control exercise following the widespread protests across the state since September.
The protests began when farmer unions took to the streets over price of basmati and compensation for cotton affected by a pest attack and were followed by Sikh bodies, who agitated against the repeated desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sources said SAD aims to have a gathering bigger than that at the recent Sarbat Khalsa. The party could, however, face trouble as Sikh radicals and farmer unions have already made it clear that they will protest at the venues and would stop people from reaching the events. SAD has been bullish in response to the threats. Party president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has warned that workers from Bathinda, Muktsar, Mansa and Faridkot will be attend the Bathinda rally in huge numbers and would “deal with those that attempt to obstruct it”.
Work, meanwhile, is under way at the rally site — 100 acres of vacant land on the Bathinda- Goniana road owned by real state firm Pearl group of companies.
“A total of 40 acres will be used for the tent, while the remaining area will be for parking and a helipad,” said Kanwarjeet Singh Rozy Barkandy, president of the Youth Akal Dal, Malwa zone. Apprehending protests, over 8,000 youth workers will be put on duty inside the pandal, in the parking area and even at select places on the roads. “We need to take extra precaution and we will not let anyone stop our vehicles,” Barkandy added. He further said Sukhbir will reach the venue with a cavalcade from Badal village. “More than 1,000 vehicles of the Youth Akali Dal and the Students Organisation of India will accompany the Deputy CM,” Barkandy added.