When the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was in power in Punjab for decade till February 2017 under the leadership of Parkash Singh Badal, there was a demand for giving his son and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal the chief ministership.
But the senior Badal continued to be the CM even as his son’s supporters kept making the case for handing over the post to young Sukhbir on the lines of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh where Mulayam Singh handed over the leadership to his son Akhilesh Yadav by giving him the CM’s post after the 2012 Assembly polls.
But apparently senior Badal was conscious of the fact that handing over the CM’s post to his son Sukhbir could have rocked the party as a section of senior party leaders was certain to question the power shift between the father-son duo.
The same is proving true at present with a section of senior SAD leaders revolting against Sukhbir’s leadership. More so because the ageing senior Badal has taken a backseat and the junior Badal is single-handedly running the Akali Dal. Many in the SAD are apparently unhappy at the way SAD’s decision making is now concentrated in the hands of the Badal family.
Some senior party leaders have let it be known publicly that they are not happy at the way Sukhbir is running the party as per his wishes. This resentment came into the open recently when the senior SAD leadership including Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, former MP Ratan Singh Ajnala, former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa raised the banner of revolt against the party president.
Senior party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa resigned from all positions of the party. The veteran leader cited “advancing age and deteriorating health” as the reasons for quitting the party. He was followed by member of Parliament and senior SAD leader Ranjit Singh Brahmpura (81) who too resigned from all party posts citing advanced age and health grounds.
The resignation of both these leaders appears to be the fallout of the simmering discontent against Sukhbir and the concentration of all powers in the party in the Badal family.
The MP from Khadoor Sahib, Brahmpura admitted he was unhappy and unfortunate to be part of the Akali Dal on two devastating issues, which include the flip-flop on pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and the Barghari sacrilege incidents. Brahmpura was earlier joined by two other Akali stalwarts, former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan and former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala, to express their dismay at the sad state of affairs in the party.
“All is not well in the party. This is the reason we have come together to raise the issue,” they said at a joint press conference without directly naming anyone.
Ajnala has now openly blamed Badal family’s control over the SAD for resentment among party workers and leaders. “If you want a minister at the Centre, it will be your (Badal’s) daughter-in-law (Harsimrat Kaur Badal). We senior leaders are never consulted. If anyone has to be made a deputy chief minister in Punjab, it has to be your son (Sukhbir). Majithia (Sukhbir’s brother-in-law) has to be kept as a minister continuously. Don’ t we know where Majithia has come from and where has he reached now,” Ajnala said recently. “Akali Dal is not a fiefdom of the Badals. It belongs to the people. We will go amongst the masses and share our feelings with them. We will initiate an Akali Dal bachao campaign),” he added.
The Akali Dal is passing through its toughest political phase in recent memory following the former chief minister Badal’s indictment by the Ranjit Singh Commission, which looked into sacrilege cases and subsequent firing by cops on Sikh protesters in 2015, for the police action at Kotkapura.
Dissenting voices against the leadership have emerged ever since the party decided to boycott the debate on the commission’s report in the Assembly. The SAD leadership is also being blamed for the Akal Takht pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief in a blasphemy case which had to be reversed under pressure from the Sikh community.
Earlier, showing disagreement with the top leaders former education minister Tota Singh and Lok Sabha member Prem Singh Chandumajra questioned the decision of the SAD leadership to boycott a Punjab Assembly debate on Justice (retd.) Ranjit Singh Commission report on the 2005 Bargari firing incident. Soon after, former SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar also expressed his resentment over the handling of the report by the party leadership.
The latest rebellion has forced Badal, who is over 90 years old, to come out of political hibernation and take an active role again to back his son’s leadership. Besides calling Dhindsa who rejected the former chief minister’s appeal to take back his resignation, Badal has also been meeting SAD leaders and workers in an apparent move to control damage in the party.
In another move, the party president Sukhbir has offered to resign from his post “if the party asks”. In a bid to quell rebellious voices, Sukhbir said all veteran Akali leaders were his elders and he respects them. Showing respect to senior party leaders Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Rattan Singh Ajnala and Sewa Singh Sekhwan, who have raised a banner of virtual revolt, Sukhbir said he respects them and knows they have immensely contributed to the party.