CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who represents five-star corporate culture, is trying to re-invent himself and the party by trying to get back the traditional panthic vote bank that has somewhat eroded.
In the Punjab elections this year, the Akali Dal was relegated to third spot. With the Congress winning the election and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) becoming the main opposition, the 10-year rule of the party came to an end. AAP snatched the traditional panthic votes that would always go the SAD’s way. The party is now trying to get them back.
On its 97th foundation day on Thursday, Sukhbir said the SAD had fought for the state capital, Punjabi-speaking areas and river waters and would continue to do so. “Even now, I am committed to lead any agitation from the front and will not allow repression against a single Akali worker,” the former deputy chief minister said.
Stating that the SAD was the oldest party in the country that had been founded by Indians, he said the Congress, which was older, had been founded by an Englishman, Allen Octavian Hume. Asserting that the SAD had emerged as the representative organisation of the Sikh panth, he said this had come about because of the sacrifices of party workers. He also mentioned his father and former chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, who he said had spent 16 years in jail.
Recently, Sukhbir spent a night on the Beas bridge on the Moga-Amritsar highway to protest excesses against party activists during nominations for the December 17 municipal elections. He was booked by police for blocking the highway after his pictures having breakfast went viral on social media.
During the recent revamp of the party organisation, Sukhbir ensured that the old guard was given back the reins. All the 14 newly appointed senior party vice-presidents are confidants of SAD patron and five-time former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal.
The party also tried to portray itself as secular, with three Hindus leaders being brought into the party top brass. Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral is now senior vice-president, MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu is general secretary and NK Sharma is treasurer.
This is part of the exercise to revive the Akali Dal and end the perception, possibly propagated by the AAP, that it is in league with the Congress.