Amid growing disenchantment with Sukhbir Badal’s leadership within the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), several Punjab Cabinet Ministers on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the party, which had been clearly reduced to the personal fiefdom of the Badals.
The Cabinet Ministers, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa (Rural Development & Panchayats), Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria (Housing and Urban Development) and Gurpreet Singh Kangar (Revenue), reacted sharply to Sukhbir’s wife and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s increasing interference in the affairs of the party’s state affairs, as evident from her presence at the meetings of SAD’s core committee, despite not being its member.
It was ironical, said the Ministers in a hard-hitting statement issued here, that the very Akalis, who had historically fought to free the Gurdwaras from the hereditary control of the Mahants (the traditional clergy that had become extremely powerful and ritualised, in the early 20th century) were now being led by a similar hereditary command structure under the Badals.
“What is the difference between the heredity promoted by those Mahants/Udasis in British India and the Badals, who were openly and brazenly nurturing a similar culture to ensure that the control of the SAD remains with the family?” they asked.
Harsimrat’s increasing involvement in SAD’s and Punjab’s affairs, even at the cost of her important work as a Union Minister, was a clear indication that the rank and file of the party were not happy with the leadership of Sukhbir, said the Ministers.
The SAD was in a complete disarray, particularly in the post Prakash Singh Badal era, they observed, pointing to the rebellion by the Dhindsa father-son duo, who had already been suspended from the party. It may be recalled that MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and his son Parminder were suspended from SAD on Saturday after the core committee meeting that was attended by Harsimrat.
The Dhindsas had openly revolted against the stifling control of SAD by the Badals, declaring their intent to liberate the party from the family and revive its lost glory, the Ministers pointed out, citing it as just the latest example of the mounting disillusionment within the party against Sukhbir’s leadership and the lack of democracy prevailing in it.
“If senior leaders of the party are so unhappy with the leadership and loss of ideology, one can only imagine how dissatisfied the ordinary workers would be,” they quipped.
The Akali Dal, said the Ministers, had lost all credibility under the unprincipled, unethical and corrupt leadership of the Badals, who had lost all political integrity and had cut off the party complete from the grassroots in order to promote their selfish personal interests.
The Ministers also termed Sukhbir’s senseless recent diatribes against the Captain Amarinder government as a frustrated bid to divert attention from the total collapse of the SAD, and his own personal downfall in the face of the growing resentment against him from within the party.
Unable to cope with his failure, Sukhbir had been resorting to attacking the incumbent Congress government, using lies and fabrications to woo the people of Punjab, who had completely rejected the divisive and destructive SAD, and the leadership of the Badals, in favour of the positive, development-oriented and progressive leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh, the Ministers added.
As far as Harsimrat was concerned, instead of jumping into the SAD’s Punjab affairs, she should spend her time and energy representing Punjab’s interests in the central government, of which she was a party, said the Ministers.
The Ministers stressed that it was time for the Badals to step down from the SAD and hand over the party reins to those who remain committed to the Akali ideology. Else, the day will soon come when the Akalis would be completely wiped out from the face of Punjab (and Indian) polity, they warned.