Badals appease ‘bitter’ SAD leaders ahead of elections

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Old 10-Jul-2011
Badals appease ‘bitter’ SAD leaders ahead of elections

Chandigarh July 10:

Haunted by the growing disillusionment against the leadership, by a section of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal have begun to accommodate such leaders at various levels in the party and government.

As part of the exercise, some Badal family loyalists have also been given prominent positions in the party and the government, as their support is considered crucial, in some sensitive areas, for the assembly elections that are due in February. These include the newly appointed chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) Harmeet Singh Sandhu from Tarn Taran, Gurtej Singh Ghuriana (Balluana) and Inderbir Singh Bolaria (Amritsar South).

Also MLA Valtoha, Virsa Singh Valtoha has been given the chairmanship of the District Planning Committee of Tarn Taran and Vijay Danav and Raj Kumar Atikay have been appointed as the Chairmen of the newly created Dalit Vikas Board and the Safai Karamchari Welfare Board. Other leaders like the Bathinda (Rural) district president Sakinder Singh Malooka have been elevated to the core committee of the party.

Bathinda is considered a sensitive district for the Badal family as this parliamentary constituency is represented by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of the chief minister. In the last assembly elections the Akalis had been virtually wiped out in this Malwa hinterland, of which Bathinda is a part. The others elevated to the core committee recently are Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal, former Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sucha Singh Langah, Agriculture Minister and Janmeja Singh Sekhon Irrigation Minister.

With elections due, the SAD is also gearing up to retain power. Apart from anti-incumbency that has complicated the situation, the ruling combine has to contend with the growing influence of former finance minister and People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) President Manpreet Badal, who is attracting disgruntled akali members. With former Rajya Sabha MP Varinder Singh Bajwa leaving the Akali Dal and joining the PPP, Manpreet is hopeful that many other akali leaders will follow suit. This is one reason that Sukhbir is already in damage control mode.

The SAD leadership, however, denies there is any dissidence in the party. During the swearing-in ceremony of the CPSes, the chief minister ruled out reports that the three MLAs were being elevated due to some rift. “They are young blood and they need to be given training so in the future they can become ministers,” he said. Shiromani Akali Dal Secretary and Spokesman Daljeet Singh Cheema also dismissed the allegations: “This is totally baseless and not true that due to growing disillusionment people and leaders in the party are being accommodated. As this is the election year, we are increasing the participation of the leaders from all over the state”.

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