Sikhs getting divided: Ahead of assembly elections, trouble mounts for Akali Dal

Alarm bells have started ringing for the SAD-BJP ruling alliance ahead of the 2017 assembly election in Punjab. Anti-incumbency mood is already in the air and trouble for the allies, particularly for the dominant partner Akali Dal, does not just seem to be ending.

Rajendra Khatry November 17, 2015 16:35:08 IST
Sikhs getting divided: Ahead of assembly elections, trouble mounts for Akali Dal

Chandigarh: Alarm bells have started ringing for the SAD-BJP ruling alliance ahead of the 2017 assembly election in Punjab. Anti-incumbency mood is already in the air and trouble for the allies, particularly for the dominant partner Akali Dal, does not just seem to be ending.

The government has been grappling with too many problems of late - the disturbance over the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, farmers’ protests, police firing on Sikhs, controversy over the pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda head by the SGPC and its subsequent withdrawal, and now the Sarbat Khalsa (grand assembly of the Sikhs) in which radicals made several controversial decisions. For a party which prides itself as being true representative of the Sikh community, the message from all this is not encouraging. As a result of the recent disturbances, the community seems to be getting divided.

Sikhs getting divided Ahead of assembly elections trouble mounts for Akali Dal

Representational image. AFP

The huge gathering of the Sikhs in the Sarbat Khalsa, called by the radicals near Amritsar, proved beyond any doubt the growing discontent among the people with the policies and functioning of SAD which is known to control the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). In a truly alarming development, the radicals reiterated the demand for a separate Sikh nation – (Khalistan) at the Sarbat Khalsa. The radicals also ‘appointed’ a convicted killer and ex-militant, Jagtar Singh Hawara as the Akal Takht Jathedar replacing Giani Gurbachan Singh.

Another controversial decision taken at Sarbat Khalsa was the appointment of former SAD (A) vice president Dhian Singh Mand as the ‘acting’ Akal Takht Head, Baljit Singh Daduwal as the ‘Jathedar’ of Takht Damdama Sahib and Amrik Singh Ajnala as the Jathedar of the Takht Keshgarh Sahib.

The Punjab government was quick to book most of the leaders who participated in the Sarbat Khalsa, including Shiromani Akali Dal (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann, United Akali Dal chief Bhai Mokham Singh and three newly appointed Takht Jathedars. The government even booked Mann and others under sedition charges. SAD was quick to reject the resolutions of the Sarbat Khalsa. But if the Akalis fail to contain the growing public discontent soon, it may face the wrath of the voters in the next elections.

The massive show of strength at the Sarbat Khalsa by the radicals has left the Akalis rattled. The gathering was seen as anti-Badal. In the past Badals have claimed to hold sway over the Panth, but the November 10 show punctured that. In a reported bid to save its face, Akalis have squarely blamed the Congress for the growing discontent and trouble in the state. Akalis claimed two Congress leaders present at the Sarbat Khalsa was proof that the party was trying to foment trouble in Punjab for its own gain.

Talking to the media in Chandigarh, Punjab Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema and Punjab Chief Minister’s Advisor, Harcharan Bains said Congress leaders Lalli Majithia and Harminder Singh Gill had made telephone calls to radical Sikhs leaders on the day Sarbat Khalsa was organised. They claimed Congress had pledged to send thousands of people to the Sikh congregation to make it a success. To prove their point the SAD leaders played ‘taped conversation’ of some Congress leaders with a Sikh hardliner.

Kamal Sharma, BJP president in Punjab, charged the Congress of playing dirty politics to grab power. “The Congress seems determined to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in Punjab,’’ he said.

The Congress, however, has denied any role in the Sarbat Khalsa and said SAD is trying to hide its failure on all fronts in the state by laying blame on their party. Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa lambasted the SAD for making false charges against the Congress. “The Badal government must admit that it is tapping phones of its opponents in the state. Secondly, the SAD must prove the authenticity of the tapes that it has brought out against the Congress,’’ Bajwa told media in Chandigarh yesterday.

Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha rejected SAD allegations against the party that it was politicising the events in Punjab. “Congress is a responsible political party which reaches out to people with healing touch and not bullets to kill them,” he said, adding “SAD leaders must ask themselves why they have reached such a situation where they have to run for cover.’’

Talking to Firstpost, Manjit Singh, member of Swaraj Abhiyan, said it was very sad that different political parties were trying to take advantage of the political void in Punjab. No one was talking about the people or offering solutions to meet their basic demands. Blaming poor governance for the troubled situation in Punjab, he said the need of the hour is to establish peace and brotherhood, meeting aspirations of the people rather than preparing political ground for the 2017 assembly elections.

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