Akali leaders question party’s stand on sacrilege debate
Chandigarh, August 31
The Shiromani Akali Dal is facing a political crisis, with the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government, with the help of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Vidhan Sabha, having succeeded in denting its “Panthic” image.
Senior Akali leaders have begun questioning the decision of party chief Sukhbir Badal not to participate in a debate on the floor of the Punjab Assembly on the Ranjit Singh Commission report regarding incidents of sacrilege during the SAD-BJP tenure.
Akali leaders, who had hitherto taken a back seat, have now taken upon themselves to salvage the party image and are ready to take the fight to the streets. With the Akalis on Saturday launching a stir against the Congress and radical Sikhs and AAP on an “effigy burning” campaign, it is feared that clashes may erupt between workers. Clearly, it is “do or die” for the SAD, its image soiled just days ahead of the panchayat elections.
The Congress has managed to project itself as Panthic by forcefully taking on those believed to have committed sacrilege, squarely blaming followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief and the Akalis for “protecting” the dera.
Alarmed, senior Akali leaders, including former minister Tota Singh, a close associate of former CM Parkash Singh Badal, at the party’s core committee meeting here on Thursday, is learnt to have told Sukhbir Badal that the party was losing the perception battle and that it was time for corrective measures.
The SAD president, in a bid to quell dissent, is reported to have contended that a survey showed a tide building in favour of the Akalis.
The senior leaders, of course, were not impressed. Prem Singh Chandumajra, MP, and Sewa Singh Sekhwan are learnt to have expressed similar sentiments. It is the first time that these leaders, sidelined since the Assembly elections, have spoken against the party chief’s decision.
Talking to The Tribune, Tota Singh said: “Members of the core committee have the right to express their opinion. I believe instead of a walkout, Akali MLAs should have stoutly defended the party patriarch (Parkash Singh Badal), targeted by the Congress and AAP, on the floor of the House,” adding that his message to the party president to return to the House had gone unheeded.