Although the Shiromini Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Singh Badal’s claims that the alliance between the SAD and the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was formalized in 1997 Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, yet the relationship between the Shiromini Akali Dal and the Jansangh (now BJP) started in 1967.
The Punjabi Suba (Punjabi speaking State) was carved out in November 1966, by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of the country. Before the creation of Punjabi Suba, the Jansangh opposed its formation. When Punjabi Suba was announced, two more States were created – Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
While demarcating the boundaries of Punjabi Suba, discrimination was done and even Chandigarh which was the capital of Punjab was not included in the new State and many Punjabi speaking areas were left out of Punjabi Suba.
The Akali Dal had to fight for the inclusion of Chandigarh and other Punjab speaking areas. Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas have not been included in the Punjabi speaking State so far despite the setting up of many commissions by the Centre on the distribution of river waters and the inclusion of Punjabi speaking areas.
Sant Fateh Singh who was president of the Shiromini Akali Dal at that time announced a program of self-immolation along with five other Sikh leaders and huge size hawan kunds were got prepared. Sant Fateh Singh shifted his headquarters to the Akal Takhat building.
At the same time, Yagya Dutt Sharma who was president of the Punjab Jansangh started fast unto death at Amritsar to oppose the inclusion of the Punjabi speaking areas and Chandigarh.
Self-immolation by Sant Fateh Singh and his five followers was deferred with the promise of transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab within five years and till then Chandigarh would remain the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana. Sant Fateh Singh gave up his program and Yagya Dutt Sharma also broke his fast.
I went to meet Sant Fateh Singh at Amritsar to record his reaction. Sant Fateh Singh was still having his residence on the second floor of the Akal Takhat. I had an almost one-hour meeting with Sant Fateh Singh where we discussed the economic aspects of the newly carved state and the prospect of cementing of communal harmony which had received a setback due to the agitation by the Akalis for the Punjabi Suba and opposition to the same by the Hindus including Arya Samaj and the Jan Sangh. Sant Fateh Singh was very confident of the Hindu-Sikh unity and the economic prosperity of the State.
I met Yagya Dutt Sharma as well who was optimistic and had reconciled to the formation of the Punjabi Suba.
Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir who was president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee was elected the first Chief Minister of the Punjabi Suba for almost six months as the Vidhan Sabha elections were due in 1967.
In the 1967 Vidhan Sabha elections, Congress lost and Akali Dal gained an edge over the Congress. It was in 1967 that the first non-Congress Government was formed with Justice Gurnam Singh a retired judge of Punjab High Court as Chief Minister.
This was a coalition government consisting of Jan Sangh, CPI, Socialists, and the Republican Party of India (RPI). Dr. Baldev Parkash, Balramji Das Tandon and Krishan Lal Maini – three stalwarts of the Punjab Jan Sangh were part of the coalition government. Besides, Sat Paul Dang a veteran CPI leader and Bhajan Singh of the socialist party and one representative of the RPI were also included in the coalition government.
Justice Gurnam Singh after his retirement from Punjab High Court was picked up by Master Tara Singh and he contested the first Vidhan Sabha election from the Raikot segment of Ludhiana district and was the leader of the opposition in 1962. In 1967, he was elected from Kila Raipur constituency of Ludhiana. Justice Gurnam Singh was the native of village Narangwal which was adjacent to Kila Raipur.
The first non-Congress coalition government of Justice Gurnam Singh could not complete its full term and Lachman Singh Gill who was No.2 in the cabinet walked out of the government with eighteen legislators and formed his government with the outside support of the Congress. Gill government lasted for nine months and a mid-term poll was held in 1969.
Again Akali Dal got majority and Justice Gurnam Singh was elected Chief Minister. Once again Justice Gurnam Singh was betrayed by his own party and he lost the government when Balwant Singh the then Finance Minister refused to present vote on account in the Vidhan Sabha and the government was lost.
There were differences among the Akali leaders over the nomination of Giani Bhupinder Singh who had served as head granthi of Harmander Sahib and as Jathedar of the Akal Takhat, to the Rajya Sabha. Parkash Singh Badal succeeded Justice Gurnam Singh as the Chief Minister but his government was dismissed by Indira Gandhi.
The next Vidhan Sabha elections were held in 1972 after the Indo-Bangladesh war in which Congress emerged victorious and Giani Zail Singh who was PPCC President became the Chief Minister. In June 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed an emergency in the country after her disqualification by the Allahabad High Court in an election petition filed by Raj Narain of the socialist party.
Giani Zail Singh ruled the State for five years without facing any political trouble by the opposition. Rather he could decimate his rivals in the Congress party who could be potential candidates for Chief Ministership by setting up Harchand Singh Committee which was asked to probe the illegal occupation of bet land by some Congress leaders.
Indira Gandhi lifted the emergency in January 1977 and announced the Lok Sabha elections in the country. The opposition parties formed one party known as Janata Party on the appeal of Loknayak Jai Parkash Narayan and the Janata Party routed the Congress.
The first non-Congress government was formed in the country under the leadership of Morarji Desai. But his Government did not last long and in 1980 again Lok Sabha elections were held. Indira Gandhi bounced back and formed her government. In Punjab too, Congress won and Darbara Singh was elected Chief Minister. Giani Zail Singh had moved to the Centre as Home Minister.
In Punjab, in the 1977 Vidhan Sabha elections, Akali-Janata alliance came into power with Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister. Again, differences arose between the Akali Dal and the Janata Party over the issue of language and the Janata Party ministers resigned. But differences persisted among the Akali leaders and Sukhjinder Singh who was the education minister was ousted from the cabinet by Badal.
This resulted in differences between Parkash Singh Badal and Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi who was president of the Akali Dal and the then SGPC president Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who were on the side of Sukhjinder Singh. Jathedar Talwandi was summoned at the Akal Takhat and declared Tankhya (he was given religious punishment).
Talwandi separated and formed his own Akali Dal (Talwandi). Jathedar Tohra went with Parkash Singh Badal. Following infighting among the Akali leaders, Indira Gandhi dismissed the Badal Government in 1980.
Meanwhile, in September 1981, Lala Jagat Narain was gunned down near Ludhiana which ushered in militancy in Punjab. Punjab remained in the grip of severe militancy and more than 25,000 innocent men and women were killed by the militants during a period of 12 years.
Punjab was placed under the President’s rule and ultimately ‘operation blue star’ happened in which the Akal Takhat was destroyed by the army action and Indira Gandhi was also assassinated on October 31, 1984. Her assassination was followed by the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other cities.
It was in February 1992, an election to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha was held and the Akali Dal and the Sikhs boycotted the election. Beant Singh President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress was elected Chief Minister. But he too was assassinated by the militants. He was succeeded by Harcharan Singh Brar and Rajinder Kaur Bhathal as Chief Ministers till 1997 when the election to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha was held.
It was in 1996, that a formal alliance was reached between the Akali Dal led by Parkash Singh Badal and BJP led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Madan Lal Khurana who was Chief Minister of Delhi was the real architect of this alliance. Jan Sangh had come out of the Janata Party and BJP was formed from Jan Sangh.
Parkash Singh Badal who had emerged as a leader of the Sikhs also wanted to get rid of the traditional jathedars stranglehold so the alliance came into being on December 30, 1996, when a huge rally of the supporters of the Akali Dal and the BJP was held at Ludhiana which was addressed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Lal Khurana and Parkash Singh Badal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra.
Both the parties unitedly contested the 1997 Vidhan Sabha election in Punjab and Atal Bihari Vajpayee participated in the election campaign of both the BJP and Akali candidates. This was the first joint election of Akali Dal and the National Democratic Alliance 1997 term was also the first term that ruled in Punjab for full five years.
All earlier stints of Badal were incomplete ranging from one year to two and a half years. In the 2002 Vidhan Sabha elections, the SAD-BJP alliance lost to Congress which was led by Amarinder Singh who also completed his term of five years. From 2007 to 2017 – the SAD-BJP alliance had complete two terms of ten years.
Although Sukhbir Singh Badal had been making tall claims of development in Punjab during ten years rule of the alliance, but there was no job creation and the condition of farmers became from bad to worse.
Even the industries particularly small-scale and medium-scale industries became sick. Punjab only witnessed the installation of private thermal plants and a network of roads. It is because of Sukhbir’s agreements with the private thermal plants, that Punjab is having the highest power tariff in the country.
The Badals succeeded in getting their daughter-in-law Harsimrat elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and 2019 and also got her inducted in the Modi government.
Both Sukhbir and Harsimrat have been claiming to oppose three farm bills but they were supporting the same till they saw the change in the mood of the Punjab farmers. It was a compulsion for Harsimrat to resign from the central cabinet. They have not done any act of kindness to the farmers of Punjab. It was meant to save their political skin.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
Can be reached at : email@example.com
Mobile : 99886-44244