THE SHIROMANI Akali Dal (SAD) leadership believes that polling in Punjab during the last phase (May 19) will work to its advantage, giving it more than two months to cover lost ground.
Having faced a revolt from three veterans who went on to form a separate political party — the SAD (Taksali) — SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal is already on a whirlwind tour of the state, galvanising party workers.
The SAD has been facing heat over incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib and Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan police firing incidents dating back to October 2015. Two protesters were killed at Behbal Kalan. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the incidents had recently booked former Akali legislator Mantar Singh Brar in connection with Kotkapura. As the Lok Sabha polls inched closer, both incidents continued to be in spotlight with police first arresting then Moga SSP (now retired) Charanjit Singh Sharma and later arresting Inspector General Paramraj Singh Umranangal.
Umranangal, who was arrested in connection with Kotkapura police firing, was granted bail by a Faridkot court Monday.
“In over two months (when polling will be held in Punjab), the government will stand exposed. People will understand that this was a biased probe. They will understand that it was a sham,” said Naresh Gujral, senior Akali leader and Rajya Sabha MP.
Gujral said that the “delay” in giving benefits to the public under welfare schemes like old age pension, widow pension, Atta Dal scheme would put the Congress government further in the dock after two months as the “government does not have any money”.
“The poorest of poor will realise that senior Badal sahib was a dedicated person committed to their welfare. This government is only doing lip service,” he added.
Another Akali leader however said while the two-months’ time will give Sukhbir Badal time to cover all 117 assembly segments comprehensively, whether the delay in polls in Punjab would actually work in favour of SAD cannot be predicted.
The Akali leader said that splinter groups were currently scattered.
“The splinter groups also get two-months’ time. If they regroup, it would not be good for Akali Dal. Also, there is currently a wave in favour of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi after the mood in the country over the strike in Pakistan. It has to be seen if that wave continues till the last leg of polling schedule. If it does not, this would again hurt the party’s prospects in Punjab,” the leader added.