With SAD set to re-elect Sukhbir as chief, a rebellion brews in party against family rule

Shiromani Akali Dal, Sukhbir Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, SAD elections, SAD foundation day, indian express news

More than 450 delegates from all 117 Assembly segments will elect the SAD president during a function to mark party’s foundation day.

With Shiromani Akali Dal looking set to re-elect Sukhbir Singh Badal as its chief on party’s 99th foundation day, there are speculations that Lehragaga MLA and former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa may attend a parallel function that some disgruntled leaders are holding on the occasion on December 14.

More than 450 delegates from all 117 Assembly segments will elect the SAD president during a function to mark party’s foundation day.

Parminder is leader of SAD Legislature group in Punjab Vidhan Sabha. It is being speculated that he may follow in the footsteps of his father and former MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who has confirmed that he will be attending a parallel function being held by leaders opposing the “family rule” in the Akali Dal.

Dhindsa had quit all party posts in September last year and resigned from Rajya Sabha this October. However, he continues to remain SAD’s primary member.

Asked whether Parminder will attend the parallel function, Dhindsa refused to give a straight answer. “Main vi kehna chahuna. Ohne vi keha ki main aapne baap ton pare nahi ja sakda. Hor is ton vadda ishara ki ho sakda [I want to say what he (Parminder) has already said that he cannot go against me. What bigger indication can be than this?]”

One of the disgruntled Taksali leaders said both Dhindsa and Parminder will attend the December 14 event being organised at Sri Guru Harkrishan Public School.

“Parminder was under pressure from the party leadership to not attend the parallel event, which would be attended by Dhindsa and other sidelined veterans and senior leaders, including some of other parties. Former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh G K will also attend the parallel event,” the leader said.

Parminder was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.

A senior Akali Dal leader, however, denied pressuring Parminder against attending any event. “It looks unlikely that Parminder would revolt against the party at this juncture. He is in a win-win situation. In case the faction of which his father is a part, gains any momentum, he will be adequately adjusted. In case, that faction does not resonate, Parminder can always tell Badals that he made supreme sacrifice by not toeing his father’s line,” the SAD leader said.

On the parallel event, Dhindsa said that Akali leaders who had been “sidelined” are celebrating party’s 99th foundation. Alleging that more and more powers were being concentrated with one family in the party, Dhindsa said, “Our aim is to put Akali Dal back on track and make it democratic. And in doing so, we are not asking anyone to resign [from SAD]. We have to do this while remaining in the party”.

The development and the way Dhindsa has been relentless has also given rise to talks that BJP at national level is trying to test waters to create an alternate alliance to have more say in Punjab. As per current arrangement with SAD, BJP contests on 23 Assembly seats and SAD on 94.

SAD (Taksali) leader Sewa Singh Sekhwan, meanwhile, said, “There is a politicization of SGPC, which should have focused on religious issues. There is one family rule in SAD, which has lost its panthic credentials. We are the actual heirs of Akali Dal, and not the Badal family.”

A senior SAD leader also said that there was “indeed a need for course correction in the party to make it democratic”, but under the given circumstances with Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal commanding much respect from majority of leaders, no one is “taking the risk to expose self”.