On Saturday, Delhi will see a gathering of Akalis who are opposed to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s hegemony over
Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who was recently suspended from SAD and who heads the forum called ‘Safar-e-Akali Lehar’, says it is intended to unite leaders angry with Sukhbir’s leadership.
With voices against the Badal family getting louder in SAD, the party is facing its worst existential crisis as its enters its 100th year — it was founded in December 1920. The opposition to party president Sukhbir, whose father Parkash Singh Badal (92) has long helmed the party, comes at a time when the party is at its weakest — with just 14 seats in the 117-strong Punjab Assembly.
Eye on SGPC elections
Dhindsa Senior and SAD (Taksali) have decided to focus on contesting elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body that controls Sikh shrines and educational institutes, and is often considered the cash cow of SAD. They claim they will approach Union Home Minister Amit Shah to appoint a Gurdwara Elections Chief Commissioner (GECC) and hold the long-overdue elections so that they can “free SGPC from the Badals”. Former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) chief Manjit Singh G K —who won the last gurdwara elections in Delhi without the support of the Badals — has joined hands with the detractors.
Early this month, Dhindsa’s son and leader of the party in the Assembly Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who was subsequently suspended along with his father last Sunday, quit the post citing lack of internal democracy in SAD. In December, his father had revolted against the Badals by calling a parallel convention to mark the party’s foundation day. “I will work within the party to revive it and liberate it of family rule,” he had said, blaming Sukhbir for the party’s “ruin”.
Resentment against the Badals has been brewing since Badal Senior included in the Cabinet members of his family, including son Sukhbir, son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon and son’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia in two consecutive terms — 2007 and 2012 — while promoting daughter-in-law MP Harsimrat Badal at the Centre. The resentment spilled out after the party’s debacle in the 2017 Assembly polls. More than a dozen senior leaders quit the party in 2018, accusing the Badals of misusing power.
Many blamed the party’s loss on the father-son duo’s alleged poor handling of the sacrilege incident of 2015, when a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib was stolen and its torn pages were found outside a shrine in Bargari village. In December 2018, the old guard, including Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Ratan Singh Ajnala and Sewa Singh Sekhwan, formed a party called SAD (Taksali), and even contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Now, they are coming together to question the leadership of Sukhbir, who was elected party president unopposed for the third consecutive time in December 2019.
Sukhbir, meanwhile, has accused the Dhindsas of backstabbing the party. Addressing a rally in Muktsar on January 14, he claimed Dhindsa Senior was given plum posts even though he could win only one election in 30 years. Calling dissenters such as Sekhwan rebels and not Taksalis, he said they were working against the path (Sikh community).
This prompted a slugfest, with Dhindsa Senior saying Sukhbir forgot to mention that he (Dhindsa) won four Assembly elections. “I want to know who was behind my defeat,” he said, hinting at Sukhbir. “He needs to reveal what work he has done due to which he was made SAD president and Deputy CM. He is Parkash Singh’s son. That’s it.”
Sekhwan hit out at Sukhbir, saying, “When the monarch becomes a businessman, people cannot hope for justice,” referring to the SAD chief’s business empire.
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