By Jagtar Singh | OPINION | PUNJAB, INDIA |
Chandigarh: It was being expected for long.
Former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa on Friday resigned from the office of the Leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal Legislature Party. He did not quit the party. The issue is not that of Parminder Singh Dhindsa but that of the Leader of the Legislature Party in the Assembly raising the banner of revolt.
Of course, he assigned no reason in his resignation letter addressed to party president Sukhbir Singh Badal. This move was being speculated upon when his father and Rajya Sabha member from Akali Dal Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa resigned from all party offices including that of the Secretary General. He too did not resign from the party.
Dhindsa Senior had taken this step to register his protest against the functioning of Sukhbir. In the political affairs committee meeting after the last Assembly election in 2017, he had argued for the resignation by Sukhbir Singh Badal from party presidency for the dismal failure. The party could retain only 15 out of total 117 seats in the House after having been in power continuously for ten years. The Akali Dal won only two seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The last time the Akali Dal was hit by similar crisis was towards the end of 1998 when the party stalwart and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gurcharan Singh Tohra had proposed that party president Parkash Singh Badal should either quit this office or appoint officiating president as he had little time to spare for the party affairs being the chief minister. Tohra had raised this issue after the Akali Dal that had come into power in 1997 winning the highest ever 75 seats (74+1) was defeated by six votes from Adampur in the Assembly bye-election.
The crisis resulted in the vertical split. Tohra was ousted not only from the all-powerful office of the SGPC chief but also the party. He subsequently floated Sarv Hind Shiromani Akali Dal but the party failed to take off. However, he succeeded in the ouster of Akali Dal from power in 2002 Assembly elections.
Towards the end of about yearlong behind the scene parleys, he had come to the opinion that he would negotiate when there was level playing field that meant defeat of Akali Dal in the Assembly elections. He ensured the defeat of Akali Dal candidates. The two stalwarts united when Badal became former chief minister. Badal had used state power to oust Tohra.
The situation in 2020 is different.
Sukhbir Badal continues to be under the shadow of Bargari sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. The Akali Dal is the weakest ever. The party could not even retain Jalalabad, the seat vacated by Sukhbir Singh Badal following his election to the Lok Sabha, in the bye-election. The only strength of the Akali Dal is its alliance with the BJP and a cabinet berth in Narendra Modi government.
However, speculations have been there for months about the BJP looking for alternative. Presently, the alternative is just not there. However, Sukhdev Singh Dhinda had been conveying in political circles that he took the step only after getting signal from the BJP higher ups. It may be mentioned that a senior BJP leader had discussed this issue with a Delhi based senior Sikh leader too who suggested that only a Punjab based leader could mobilise the Punjabis for a new outfit.
Parminder Dhindsa being strong or weak leader is not important. What is important is the signal that the party president can’t keep the senior leaders united. It is an open secret in the Akali Dal that several other senior leaders are not happy with the state of affairs in the party.
The perception that the party is pocket borough of the president has been reinforced with the appointment of Sharanjit Singh Dhillon as Leader of the Akali Dal Legislature Party without any meeting. It is this style of functioning of Sukhbir Singh Badal that is under question.
See original story, ‘Revolt in Akali Dal when the party is the weakest in history. Last split led by Tohra was in 1999’, (Jagtar Singh Reflects, 4 Jan 2020), here.
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