Tuesday 14 July 2020

Sukhbir Badal launches damage control exercise but stops short of offering resignation

- Posted on 28 October 2018

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, October 28: When Sukhbir Singh Badal took over as the party president in 2008, he represented the changing face of the party, both in content and outlook.

One has to go back in time to appreciate that change.

Here is one way of looking at it.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Jagdev Singh Talwandi was never addressed as Jagdev  Talwandi or just Jagdev in the media. Of course, the media had some rules as to how to address people while writing news stories.

Sant Harchand Singh Longowal was never addressed as Harchand Longowal or Parkash Singh Badal as Parkash Badal.

This distinction goes to Sukhbir Singh Badal who is usually written as Sukhbir Badal or Sukhbir.

This is the change that speaks for the changing culture. It may be because he hit the mainstream as the face of generational change much before taking over formally.

This new generation leader is now being questioned by the older generation (takasli) leaders who over time have lost their relevance.

However, Parkash Singh Badal is 90 plus but he has returned to command the party as patron in active role to help his son confront the deepening crisis.

These leaders might have taken inspiration to challenge Sukhbir’s leadership from his father as Parkash Singh Badal coming out after months of hibernation raises many questions.

Sukhbir today signalled the launching of damage control measures when he said the Akali Dal was not “the property of any leader”. However, he stopped short of even offering resignation when he said, “The party entrusted me with this responsibility and will resign when directed by the party”. This means just nothing.

This statement is meaningless in the context that he was advised to resign by Ranjit Singh Brahmpura at the core committee meeting after the worst ever humiliation in the 2017 Assembly elections. Most of the senior leaders held the same opinion. However, Sukhbir felt offended and got up to walk out, only to be assuaged by a Badal family loyalist.

The list of leaders who want him to quit is getting longer beginning with the shocker delivered by  Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who too was Badal loyalist for decades till he was overlooked and family nominated Harsimrat Kaur Badal to represent the party in the Narendra Modi government in the cabinet rank. The BJP had offered to adjust two nominees from the Akali Dal but as minister of state with independent charge. Badals insisted on cabinet rank.

As part of the damage control, Sukhbir accompanied by Bikram Singh Majithia called on party senior vice president Manjit singh at his residence in Amritsar today. It may be mentioned that Manjit is the only senior office bearer of the Akali Dal who has been seen at the Bargari stage. This was on October 14.

These senior leaders have now revealed that the party decision-making is centred in the Badal family. No other leader was consulted when pardon from Akal Takht was secured for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim as part of the vote bank politics as revealed by another senior leader from Majha Sewa Singh Sekhwan.

The Bargari Insaaf Morcha continues to dent Akali Dal and the so called damage control measures can’t counter the issues at the centre of the Bargari religio-political discourse.

That is the basic issue and there is only one way out but that won’t be palatable to Badals.

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