Dera Sacha Sauda fails to rescue Akali Dal in panchayat bodies polls too

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, September 23: Dera Sacha Sauda has failed to sustain the Akali Dal again, this time in the rural areas based panchayat samiti and zila parishad polls. Of course, the party has succeeded in replacing Aam Aadmi Party as the main opposition which has virtually been decimated.

The trend over the years has been that it is the ruling party that gets control over the local bodies in both urban as well as rural areas but despite that, there are always aspects that assume significance. It is the parties in opposition complain against the ruling party for highhandedness in these elections. The narrative remains the same and only the position of the parties change.

These elections have been held at the time when the Akali Dal has positioned itself against the dominating Sikh sentiment both in case of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the Kartarpur Sahib corridor across the border. This is the party that used to articulate Sikh aspirations and ambitions.

These elections are mainly in the Sikh domain as the voting area is the countryside.

The Akali Dal has failed to win even a single zila parishad seats in Barnala, Bathinda, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Mansa, Pathankot, Patiala and Rupnagar.

Out of the total 353 zila parishad seats, the Congress has won in 331 and Akali Dal in 18 with two  seats going to the independents. The faction ridden AAP is a complete wash out.

In the panchayat samitis, out of 2899 seats, the Congress has captured 2351, Akali Dal 353  and AAP 20 with independents succeeding in 63 seats.

Sardulgarh in Mansa district is the Assembly constituency that is known to be dominated by Dera Sacha Sauda devotees and Akkanwali zila parishad segment is its part. Bikram Singh Mofar of the Congress has won from here with the highest margin of 11751 votes in the state.

This is also the seat that witnessed polling of about 75 per cent. Akkanwali thus has the distinction of the zila parishad seat with the highest polling, highest margin and the highest number of Premis as the Sera Sacha Sauda devotees are known.

Jaito area is ground zero of sacrilege centred religion-political discourse. Out of 21 panchayat samiti zones here, 19 have gone to the Congress and two to the independents. The Akali Dal has managed to win just two of the 16 panchayat samiti seats in Kotkapura.

Lehragaga in Sangrur is yet another Assembly seat where Dera Sacha Sauda has considerable following and out of 20 samiti seats, 18 have gone to the Congress and only two to the Akali Dal.

It is the entire Malwa heartland that is important in the context of Detra Sacha Sauda influence on electoral dynamics that dictated the choice of the Akali Dal of opting for this vote bank, particularly in the context of Bathinda Lok Sabha seats that comprises the districts of Bathinda and Mansa and represented by food processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal since 2009.

It is only in Lambi represented by Parkash Singh Badal and adjoining Malout that the Akali Dal has succeeded in retaining the party base.

Akali Dal’s best performance is in Majitha where out of 24 samiti seats, 20 have gone to the Akali Dal. Maijitha is represented by former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia. On the other hand, in Jalalabad that is the area of Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Congress has won from 13 segments, the Akali Dal from 11 with one seat having gone to an independent.

One dimension of the voting pattern is that the Dera followers have not overtly gone over to the Akali Dal despite Sukhbir Badal having taken a position that is perceived to be pro-Dera and in essence is anti-Sikh.

For Sukhbir Singh Badal, virtually every Sikh who is demanding punishment for those involved in the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib is playing the ISI game going by his narrative since the Bargari Insaaf Morcha was launched by parallel Akal Takht Jathedar Dhian Singh Mand who is former member of Lok Sabha who won in 1989. He is being supported all other parallel jathedars, the United Akali Dal, Dal Khalsa and the Akali Dal (Amritsar).

The tabling of Justice Ranjit Singh report on sacrilege and the stand taken by the Badals against it has heated up the political climate, especially in the rural areas. The basic issue is that of sacrilege and not this report.

The panchayat bodies election is mainly a Sikh affair.

Another issue on which the Badal family has taken a stand that is being perceived to be anti-Sikh is related to corridor to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. Both Sukhbir and his wife Harsimrat Kaur have been ridiculing local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who was conveyed by Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that his country was positive on providing visa free access to the Sikhs during 550thbirth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. The founder of the Sikh faith spent his last 18 years at Kartarpur that is just four km from Dera Baba Nanak in India on this side of river Ravi.

The Akali Dal has been following the BJP line on this sensitive issue and that party has its own politics vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Sukhbir Singh Badal as the Akali Dal chief would have to review his political line in entirety in case the Akali Dal is to be revived. He needs to have a little bit of knowledge of Akali Dal history too.

Jagtar Singh


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