Amid rising voices of dissent within the party, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Sunday said that he was ready to resign from his post “if the party asks”. However, Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, who is leading a group of disgruntled party leaders from Majha region, doubted Sukhbir’s offer to step down, saying that his resignation was sought during the SAD core committee meeting soon after the Assembly poll debacle, but “he didn’t listen then”.
Talking to the media at the information center of the Golden Temple on Sunday, Sukhbir said: “We are a family. Party has given me the responsibility as president. If the party asks, I will resign from the president’s post. The party is supreme for me and no individual is bigger than the party. Also, the party is not the personal property of anyone. I have performed my duty with complete dedication.”
Three Akali veterans from the Majha belt — Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Rattan Singh Ajnala — were the first to openly raise a banner of revolt against the current party leadership. The Majha leaders had indirectly asked for Sukhbir’s resignation over issues like desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, killing of two Sikhs in police firing at Behbal Kalan and the pardon given, and later revoked, to Dera Sirsa head Gurmeet Ram Rahim by the Akal Takht. They had said that the party top leadership should be held responsible for these “mistakes”.
Last week, Brahmpura had quit all party posts saying that no one within the SAD was listening to issues raised by him. Party MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who hails from Malwa, was the first Akali veteran to resign from all party posts, but he had done so citing health reasons.
When asked about dissenting senior members of the party, Sukhbir said, “I have great respect for all the senior leaders of the party. They have dedicated their lives to the party. Whenever I meet them, I touch their feet. So, I cannot say anything about them…They are my seniors and I respect them.”
He added, “SAD is the party of everyone and it is like a family. My father, Parkash Singh Badal, is the senior head of this family. I am the head of the party. I can go to senior leaders or they can come to me. If they order, I will go to them. I have no problem. It is our family.”
Talking to The Indian Express, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura said, “I don’t think Sukhbir has any intention to give his resignation, because if he had any such intention then he would have resigned when party had demanded his resignation after the big defeat in the assembly elections. His resignation was sought in the party meeting immediately held after the results of assembly elections came out. Few SAD core committee members had asked for his resignation. But he didn’t listen then.”
He added, “All this talk about creating unity is hypocrisy… They never asked the party’s core committee before committing those mistakes. They did all that on their own.”
Brahmpura has also called a meeting of party workers in Tarn Taran on November 4. It is being seen as first public meeting by party leaders who are taking on the current leadership.
Asked if the Tarn Taran meeting had created pressure on Sukhbir, Brahmpura said, “Workers’ meeting called by us is a different issue. We have called this meeting to explain to our workers what is going on. Much has happened in recent times, but we could not inform our party workers. Many people do not know why I have given my resignation. Workers do not know the reasons and this meeting has been called to explain the situation to them…Our demand is very clear that the party high command should seek apology for the mistakes it committed and at the same time president Sukhbir Singh Badal should own responsibility and resign from the post.”
Sukhbir has been in Amritsar for the last two days. However, there has been no attempt to meet veteran Akali leaders from Majha who had raised their voice against the working of the party. “We didn’t get any message and we have not been expecting any message or invitation from Sukhbir,” said Brahmpura.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Sukhbir visited the home of SGPC member Manjit Singh, who is the brother of Sikh militant Amrik Singh. Amrik Singh was killed in Operation Blue Star and Manjit Singh, also among the militants fighting against the Army, was captured.
Earlier this month, Manjit Singh had expressed his resentment over alleged mishandling of the incident of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 by SAD’s top leadership.
SGPC member Manjit Singh is not any mass leader, and his political career is built around the legacy of his brother Amrik Singh and father Kartar Singh.
Amrik Singh was among the top three Sikh militants with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who fought against the Army during Operation Blue Star in 1984. His father, Kartar Singh, was head of the Damdami Taksal and a mentor to Bhindranwale.
“Sukhbir Singh Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia came to my house and we had a long discussion over party affairs. I am satisfied with Sukhbir’s explanation. But I can’t disclose his explanation before the media,” said Manjit Singh.