Battered and bruised after facing a humiliating defeat in the Punjab assembly polls that were held about four months ago, the Sukhbir Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) now seems to be facing a major rebellion within its ranks over the senior leadership delaying in taking “correctional” steps to take the party out of the crisis.
A meeting of some leaders, who are said to be upset with the party, was held at the residence of Ravi Karan Singh Kahlon in Amritsar on Monday in which several issues confronting the SAD, which has suffered two consecutive assembly election defeats, were discussed. A senior party leader said that the participants have agreed on meeting Badal to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the Jhunda committee.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of a demand by certain leaders for the implementation of the recommendations of the Iqbal Singh Jhudan-led panel which was formed to analyse the reasons for the party’s poor performance in the 2022 Punjab assembly elections. Among other recommendations, it strongly favoured changing leaders from 114 assembly seats out of 117, fixed terms for SAD president and separate leaders for the religious body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and political establishment which is the SAD.
The panel had visited 100 assembly constituencies to take feedback from party workers and other people. The report is yet to be made public.
Sources said that the leaders were upset that despite having met Badal individually and asking for the implementation of the committee report, nothing much seems to have happened. “Since we don’t see anything happening on the implementation front, we have decided to meet the party chief together so that the leadership understands the seriousness of the issue,” a leader said.
Significantly, Akali MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali, who has been meeting senior party leaders to draw their attention to the downslide of the party’s fortune, also attended the meet.
The SAD has been on a downslide in the political landscape of Punjab after it lost power in 2017 assembly elections. The SAD was decimated in the 2022 assembly polls as it could win just three seats in the 117-member Vidhan Sabha.
Notably, Akali Dal MLA Ayali had last month left his party red-faced after he boycotted the presidential election held on July 18, saying issues related to Punjab remain unresolved and he was not consulted by his party leadership Badal before deciding to back NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu.
Others who attended the meeting were – Prem Singh Chandumajra, Charanjit Singh Atwal, Jagmeet Singh Brar, Gurpratap Singh Wadala, Ravi Karan Singh Kahlon, Bhai Manjit Singh, Amarpal Singh Boney, Santa Singh Umaidpuri, Indrikbal Singh Atwal, Karnail Singh Panjoli and Jagjit Singh Kohli.
Rubbishing all the reports of rumblings for change in the SAD, party spokesperson Daljeet Cheema said, “All is well in SAD and there is no dissensions.” He said leaders would meet and there would be discussions.
Badal on Monday set up a five-member disciplinary committee and also appealed to party members to only use the party platform to express their views. He appealed to all party members to use only the party platform for free and democratic expression of their views in keeping with the lofty traditions of the party.
“Every view for strengthening the party will be heard, respected, and considered in all sincerity and seriousness within the parameters of the party platform, as has been the time-tested practice in the party,” said the SAD statement. Badal said views on internal matters of the SAD should not be aired elsewhere.
On July 28, Badal dissolved the entire organisational structure of the party, in pursuance of the recommendations of the 13-member committee. All bodies, including the core committee, the working committee, the office bearers and all other units as well as all wings of the party were dissolved.