Sukhbir’s move to contest from Ferozepur to add spice to Lok Sabha polls in Punjab
Chandigarh, March 26: The strategic move of Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal to enter the Lok Sabha polls arena in Ferozpur would add interesting dimension to the election scene in Punjab characterised by multiplicity of candidates.
It is only a move till the formal announcement despite confirmation by the sources.
It was way back in 1977 that Shiromani Akali Dal had fielded all the stalwarts including Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Mohan Singh Tur, Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Surjit Singh Barnala and Parkash Singh Badal in the Lok Sabha election. Tohra had then defeated Capt Amarinder Singh in Patiala. Badal returned to state politics after the Assembly elections in June 1977 to become the chief minister for the second time. He had been inducted as agriculture minister at the centre.
The earlier speculation was that Sukhbir’s wife and union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal might be shifted to Ferozepur that is considered to be safer as compared to Bathinda for various reasons. This speculation had been triggered by consultations Sukhbir had with some party leaders.
She, however, publicly made it clear last week that she would not change her constituency. It is learnt that she had gone public with her views only after various dimensions of her shifting to Bathinda had been discussed in the Badal family, the power centre in the party.
It is being said in a section of the party leadership that Sukhbir contesting from Ferozepur would infuse the party with fresh energy and dynamis.
His Assembly constituency of Jalalabad is part of Ferozepur and in that sense he would not be an outsider in strict sense of the term although leaders of his stature belong to the entire state.
The Akali Dal faces this election under an entirely changed religio-political dynamics as the once Panthic party is under attack on the most serious Panthic issues that include sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 and denigration of the high Sikh institutions. Not that the Akali Dal was involved in this heinous crime of sacrilege but the situation is rooted in Sukhbir’s electoral dynamics. The Akali Dal government headed by Parkash Singh Badal with Sukhbir as the deputy chief minister did not act against the culprits and no headway in investigating the crime. The Badal government even consigned the report of Justice Jora Singh Commission appointed by it to the dustbin. The culprits have been arrested only after the exit of Badals from power. The investigation by the special investigation constituted by Capt Amarinder Singh government has questioned both the Badals in the case of police firing during protests against sacrilege in which two persons were killed. Some of the police officials have been arrested.
It would be the first election in which Badal Senior would not be in commanding role. The main responsibility would be that of Sukhbir. He would have to evolve his own narrative.
His problem is that he continues to swim in two boats. He suddenly remembers that the Akali Dal is a Panthic party and starts displaying his ‘Gatra’ that he rarely wears. On the other hand, his strategy involves mobilising Hindu and Dera Sacha Sauda votes. He has to make a choice as none of his lieutenants is rooted in the Panthic politics. It is this situation that lands him in trouble.
Contesting from Ferozepur is a risk worth taking. The Akali Dal is already at its lowest ebb due to the sacrilege crisis.