With the party facing an existential crisis, both politically and with at least two senior leaders revolting against its leadership, the Shiromani Akali Dal has now planned a show of strength across Punjab in form of “rosh (protest) rallies”, the first of which is will be taken out in Sangrur on February 2.
The symbolism is not lost. Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa hails from Sangrur.
In December, Dhindsa had revolted against the way the party is being run by the Badal family and questioned the leadership of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. Earlier this month, his son and SAD MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa resigned from the post of leader of the party in the Assembly citing lack of internal democracy in SAD. They both were suspended last Sunday.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gobind Singh Longowal, who held a meeting of Akali Dal workers at Longowal town, confirmed that the first rally will be held in Sangrur on February 2. “These will be district-level rallies. We have chosen Sangrur as the first district as we want to clear all doubts that Dhindsa father-son duo as well as masses have on workers who are with us. One rally will clear all the doubts,” Longowal said.
Though the rallies have been planned to highlight the non-fulfillment of promises by the Congress government in state, but the party is laying more stress on Dhindsa and his son so that any more possible rebellion within SAD could be curbed.
“When I contested Assembly elections from Dhanaula area of Barnala, the Congress leaders would oppose me. Dhindsa used to appoint those Congress leaders as director of cooperative banks or give them some other such designation. When he talks about principles, he should first introspect and see whether he was loyal to the Akali Dal or to the Congress,” Longowal said.
The former MLA said that “I had even asked SAD president Sukhbir Badal to appoint Dhindsa as SGPC president”.
Longowal alleged that the father and the son were “comfortable when they were getting designations in party and now when SAD is out of power, they are finding faults in it”. He said, “99 per cent of the Akali Dal workers are with us. On February 2, Dhindsas will come to know about the reality. In this rally, party workers from Sangrur and Barnala districts will take part.”
Earlier, Dhindsa had unsuccessfully contested elections to Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in 2014 while Parminder contested from the same seat in 2019. Both lost to Aam Admi Party’s Bhagwant Mann.
Resentment against the Badals has been brewing in the Akali Dal since Parkash Singh Badal 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 when the party could win just 14 seats in the 117-strong Punjab Assembly. More than a dozen senior leaders quit the party in 2018, accusing the Badals of misusing power.