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One year after poll loss, Akalis finally begin taking on Amarinder government

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 12 January 2018, 19:55 IST
(Arya Sharma)

One year after having been relegated to the third place in the Punjab Assembly polls, their worst ever performance, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) seems to have finally gathered its wits.

The party has started making preparations for the Lok Sabha elections by launching blistering attacks on the Captain Amarinder Singh led Congress government.

In a public outreach programme planned in the first week of February, the Akalis will be launching a 'Pol khol lehar' to “expose” the Congress government's alleged “fraud” on the farm loan waiver'. As a part of the programme, the SAD plans to hold rallies in all the 117 assembly constituencies in the state.

The core committee of the party had a marathon meeting at the party headquarters in Chandigarh on Thursday evening following which the president Sukhbir Singh Badal pointed, “The total farm debt according to the Congress itself is Rs 90,000 crore and their total waiver scheme covers less than Rs 700 crore, that is less than one percent of the total burden.”

The last fortnight has seen the Akalis launching a multi-pronged attack on the Amarinder government on various issues. Amarinder recently welcomed the Supreme Court decision to order fresh probe by a new SIT into 186 cases of the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 with the hope that justice would finally be meted out to the innocent victims. Sukhbir instantly dared him to quit the Congress party and move away from the Gandhis (Sonia and Rahul) to prove his sincerity on 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.

"It is the Congress and the Gandhis who have made him the leader of the Congress in Punjab Will he continue to stick to a gift from the killers of the Sikhs? I welcome his statement in this regard but my question to him now is that what are you still doing in a party guilty of murders of thousands of innocent Sikhs?" asked Sukhbir.

The Akalis who had been facing all round criticism on the issue of numerous instances of sacrilege of holy texts are now on the counter offensive. They are now demanding appointment of an inquiry commission headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to go into the all incidents of sacrilege in Punjab both during their regime as well as the present one. They have been saying that they have no faith in the Justice Ranjit Singh (Retired) Commission set up by Amarinder government citing their close personal relations.

Sukhbir said that the Punjabis have no faith in the fairness and professional objectivity of the chief minister's 'evening buddies like Justice Ranjit Singh (Retired) whose mission in life has been to hate and malign the SAD'

"Now the only pastime of such retired judges is to enjoy the splash and luxury of evening parties thrown by the chief minister. The social media is abuzz with the news and videos of these parties these days. What kind of commitment and honesty can one expect from such evening birds,?" he said after the SAD meeting on Thursday.

The farm loan waiver on which Amarinder rode to power is now turning out to be his biggest challenge. The Akalis are questioning why no policy is being framed to waive off complete loans of farm labourers and Dalits while asserting that the Congress should not discriminate against them.

SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia recently said, “Even after ten months in power it has failed to come out with a policy to waive off their loans. Even Amarinder has given an empty assurance without any road map for waiving off the loans of farm labourers even as he has refused to waive off loans of the Dalit community.”

“From a promised loan waiver of Rs 90,000 crore covering loans taken from cooperative and nationalised banks as well as private money lenders, the government has given a loan waiver of Rs 167 crore only and tried to befool the farming community that it has fulfilled its promise. Farm labourers and Dalits were kept out of even this puny waiver. More than 350 farmers have already committed suicide. This situation could worsen with no relief in sight for labourers and the Dalit community,” he added.

The Akalis have been targeting Sadhu Singh Dharamsot who is the minister for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and backward castes. “Sadhu Singh Dharamsot also needs to resign immediately. Not only has he failed the Dalit community on this issue, he has failed to even ensure they get the social welfare benefits they were getting during SAD-BJP rule. All benefits including aata-daal scheme, old age pension, medical insurance to farmers and scholarship to SC students, have been discontinued,” Majithia charged.

Over the last several months, the Akalis have been crying foul over their workers being targeted and framed in fake cases, something they had been accused of while they were in power. There are reports of violent clashes between the Congress supported elements and the Akali supporters almost on daily basis and the situation is the worst in the Majha areas from where many of these clashes go unreported.

Just three days back it was the Congress leader Harinder Pal Singh Mann who courted controversy over in his speech at a rally in Sanaur area in Patiala where he allegedly instigated the Congress to 'sever' opponents if they indulge in any wrongdoing during the forthcoming Panchayat polls. “He later gave clarifications but the fact remains that his statements justify the Akali allegations,” points out an observer.

Sukhbir has asked Amarinder to direct the state police to register a case against Mann. Telling Amarinder that Mann made the statement after telling people about his close relations with the chief minister, Sukhbir pointed that this amounts to misusing Amarinder's name.

He said that this is not a lone case of Congress leaders using brute force to throttle the opposition. “Only few days back a young man Vinay Bajaj was gravely injured at Guruharsahai and when he approached the police to register a case against the son of Guruharsahai legislator Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, the police registered a case against unidentified persons. Last week an international Karate champion Kuldeep Kaur took her life after she could not win justice for her family despite an appeal to rural development and panchayat minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. Earlier also there have been umpteen cases of Congress workers taking the law in their own hands and murdering and injuring Akali leaders and workers. All this is happening because you have refused to exercise the necessary political will and tell the police to register cases against all Congress leaders who are shattering the peace in Punjab,” he pointed..

Making a strong political statement, the Akalis have come out saying that the SAD would not allow Congress goons to indulge in goondaism in the forthcoming municipal corporation elections in Ludhiana. The SAD president has asked the party rank and file to form committees to ensure Congress goons did not capture booths as had happened during Patiala municipal corporation elections as well as other corporation and committee elections earlier. The party has decided to form a central office in Ludhiana for the corporation election that will be manned by former minister Maheshinder Singh Grewal and senior local leader Jeewan Dhawan.

“The challenge before the Akalis at this point is to regain the faith of the public. The people are still angry with them but it remains to be seen till when this anger remains in the face of the floundering Congress government in the state. The Congress will have to go an extra mile to maintain its support base if it wants to do well in the parliamentary polls,” pointed an observer.

First published: 12 January 2018, 19:55 IST