Akali Dal no more dictating agenda, in reactive mode


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 12: Aam Aadmi Party’s ‘Nasha’ Vs ‘Lalkar’ of the Shiromani Akali Dal. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the second oldest party in the country and the first regional party that used to dictate the political discourse in Punjab  virtually ever since its creation on December 14, 1920, has now entered the reactive mode. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal who has been heading this party since 2008 that for years articulated the Sikh ambitions and aspirations, can count it as his ‘big achievement’. The party is on the defensive, not just because of being in power for two terms but also due to shifting position.

People in Punjab had almost forgotten Kumar Biswas’s song Nasha depicting the state as drug haven. This song rather  betrayed lack of understanding of Punjab’s socio-economic reality on the part of the composer who is a senior AAP leader. That song would now be back in focus after “Lalkar’ whose teaser was released by Sukhbir today. The song hails Punjabis as people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause. However, this has to be seen in the context of the Akali leaders not seeing beyond their families, not in just politics but even in government appointments. Let others make sacrifices so that their sons and daughters can rule.

It is the people in the ruling party who are supposed to set the example. The Akali Dal leadership has come to be confined only to a few families. Not that Shiromani Akali Dal is the only party hit by the dynastic virus. The difference is that this used to be the only party with a difference, of the people whose  priority would not be self. It is the leadership that is supposed to be the source of inspiration and not a song. The party and its leaders continue to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, like takeover of two private transport companies recently.

AAP was getting phased out of the news columns for some reasons when it hit the headlines, of course for a wrong reason and that was the picture of the Golden Temple along with broom, its election symbol, on the cover of its youth manifesto, the first document released by the Punjab Dialogue team. The manifesto might not be in the news but the party is. This is more due to the concerted attack continuing from both the Akali Dal and the Congress. This attack should have been upto a point. There are skeletons in the cupboard of these two parties too.

This  blunder has triggered different type of political wave in AAP. H S Phoolka, who had opted for self-imposed hibernation, is back in the mainstream. It is he who has taken the lead to atone this ‘sin’ of the party by going to the Golden Temple to seek forgiveness. On the other hand, party’s state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur owned up the moral responsibility for the goof up.  Sukhpal Singh Khaira came out to launch counter attack. The impression that is coming out is that the race has started for the high office under the cover of defending the party on  this Panthic issue.

The party has neither projected any leader nor given any hint. However, the race is on. But then the functioning of this party is different as there is little autonomy to the state leaders. It is party’s incharge Sanjay Singh who loves to address the press conferences in Hindi as Chhotepur looks on. The manifesto cover is the result of this style of functioning.

Party chief Arvind Kejriwal is also coming to wash this sin of the not too mature people who messed up. However, the issue is already more than a week old and it is time to move ahead. Kejriwal should have himself apologized the very next day when he was on his 3-day tour of the state that began with the release of this document.

From being on the offensive, the party turned defensive. On the other hand, the Akali Dal is more into reactive mode. It is the people who are setting the agenda themselves. Kejriwal is coming to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and do Seva that seems to have suddenly become all important. There is nothing special about performing Seva, except when it is awarded as punishment from Akal Takht to make a person humble. That does not apply to non-Sikhs.


Jagtar Singh


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