Sukhbir Badal launches campaign for Lok Sabha polls skirting controversial issues
Chandigarh, April 1: Shiromani Akali Dal on Sunday launched the election campaign from Anandpur Sahib as the Congress is still to finalise its candidates. Party president Sukhbir Singh Badal this time promises trolley-loads of money as compared to truck-loads in 2014. However, he skirts the controversial issues that hit the Akali Dal hard in 2017 Assembly elections and continue to be part of the Sikh religio-political narrative.
Prem Singh Chandumajra is seeking re-election from Anandpur Sahib. Sukhbir was in Fatehgarh Sahib constituency on Monday from where retired bureaucrat Darbara Singh Guru has been fielded.
He has launched the campaign out-competing the Congress that is still to finalise its candidates. He today formally announced candidates from five seats including Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib.
This election has a vital dimension so far as the Akali Dal is concerned. This is the first election in which Sukhbir Singh Badal as party president has total command as due to the age factor, Akali Dal patriarch and 5-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has withdrawn from active role. Although Sukhbir took over as the party president in 2008, his father continued to play major role in elections.
However, Sukhbir is marketing his father recalling all the works done by Parkash Singh Badal government during two terms beginning 2007. But then the people in Punjab had rejected this party in 2017 despite these achievements. The performance of the Akali Dal was the worst in 2017 in its entire history.
Sukhbir is seeking votes in the name of Narendra Modi too but the thrust is on Badal’s achievements and all that is negative associated with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. Modi is being given all the credit for the Kartarpur Sahib corridors at the Akali Dal rallies while Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is the hero for the Sikhs on this emotive issue.
Under attack is laid back style of governance that characterise this term of Capt Amarinder Singh and his inaccessibility. He had made promises swearing by the Gutka he failed to fully carry out that includes job creation and total debt relief to the farmers. The suicides by the distressed farmers continue.
It is the usual narrative as he skirts all those issues due to which the party had to face the worst of humiliation in 2017. One of the main issues was sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 and police firing on Sikh protesters at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura. The Ranjit Singh Commission report followed by continuing investigation by the SIT has further complicated the situation for Badals. This issue can’t be swept under the carpet.
It is pertinent to mention that former Akali Dal finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa has publicly stated that it was wrong to pardon Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim of the blasphemy charge in 2015. The pardon had been facilitated by Badal himself who had summoned Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and his associates to his official residence in Chandigarh for that purpose. Giani Gurbachan Singh exited the office in disgrace a few months back.
No explanation has ever come from Badals for facilitating the pardon that was subsequently revoked amidst rising Sikh anger.
This issue continues to haunt Badals.
Sukhbir borrowed one promise made in 2014 campaign but in scaled down form. Both father and son had promised truckloads of money during 2014 campaign in case the BJP was voted to power with Narendra Modi as the prime minister. He talked of trolley-loads of money under the repeat situation while campaigning in Anandpur Sahib.
He sharply attacks Capt Amarinder Singh as incompetent and useless chief minister seeking mandate in this election that might facilitate his replacement.
But Capt Amarinder Singh has not touched Sukhbir’s buses although he has damaged Badals at the political level on the sacrilege issue.