Millennium Post

Akali Dal goes global

One of the oldest political parties in the country has been aspiring international ambitions though it has yet to establish its presence in Hindi speaking states. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was established in December 1920. Sardar Sarmukh Singh Chubbal was the first president. The party came into prominence due to the untiring efforts of Tara Singh. The party is presently led by Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab. He is ambitious and has been mulling expansion of the party in other states as well. It is learnt that the party may contest elections even in Canada where population of Sikhs is substantial. Junior Badal is pitching for more seats in Delhi Assembly elections due in November 2013.

Even during the last Assembly elections in 2008 SAD had demanded more than 10 seats from the Bharatiya Janata Party  (BJP), which agreed to spare just four.  One of the SAD candidates, Avtar Singh Hit, a sitting member of MCD, contested on his party symbol and gave a tough fight to the Congress candidate, A Daya Nand Chandila A, from Rajouri Garden seat. Hit lost with a slender margin of 46 votes. The other three SAD members contested on the BJP symbol could not get through. The BJP in the hope of securing Sikh votes have been sparing a few seats to the Akalis. The SAD though could not win any assembly seat but the seat sharing between the BJP and the SAD helped the latter in getting a few seats in MCD elections. The winning SAD candidates however had been contesting on the BJP symbol. S Sukhbir Singh Badal is bounced with his party’s victory in Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee after a long gap.  He is insisting for more seats from its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner BJP apart from contesting on own symbol.  SAD, led by junior Badal, may also demand West Delhi Lok Sabha seat from the BJP as SAD is the oriental, regional and religious constituent in the NDA.

The junior Badal had been repeatedly unleashing his desire to strengthen the base of his party in all Hindi speaking states.  In fact, SAD contested elections in Haryana to taste some success and more losses, though could not become a regional force despite presence of the Sikhs and Punjabis in many parts of the state. On the other hand Haryana chief minister used his good offices in setting up of a separate Sikh Gurudwara  Prabandhak Committee for the state.  Haryana state Akali Dal was formed in 1999 though it could not take off suitably. The presence of the Sikhs in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan may become an attraction for the SAD to spread its wings.  The recent statement of Sukhbir to explore the electoral ground in Canada has surprised many political analysts.

The SAD (UK) is functional in England. The Sikhism centric party, SAD, is the largest and most influential Sikh body and has been controlling the SGPC and Delhi SGPC. The party claims to be a representative body of all Punjabis including Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The Akali government once had a Muslim Akali MLA, nawab of Malerkotla Muhammad Iftikhar Ali Khan, who was also elevated as a minister. Joginder Jain got elected as an Akali MLA recently in a by-election. He deserted Congess to join SAD and to contest a by-election from Moga. Naresh Gujral, son of late I K Gujral, is a sitting Akali Rajya Sabha member.  He also contested Lok Sabha election as an Akali candidate from Jalandhar seat. SAD also elected the members from Christian community as MLAs.
Leaders like Tara Singh and others remained active in freedom struggle.

Of late, in post partition era, the SAD fought for a separate Punjabi speaking suba say Punjabi Suba as it was almost impossible for it to secure majority in the Assembly elections in united Punjab comprising of Hindi speaking areas of the present states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
The SAD started its agitation under the leadership of Sant Fateh Singh and even helped the Arya Samajis in Hindi speaking areas to intensify their agitation for setting up a separate state of Haryana. The division of Punjab came as a shot in the arms of Akalis as they led coalition government number of times and emerged close to majority at least once in the assembly election. The present Punjab government is in its second term and can be termed as a successful coalition comprising of the BJP and SAD. The Akalis had no tradition of succession in the party and the government before Sukhbir was elevated as the deputy chief minister before the last assembly elections and later as the party president.

The four leaders of the party held the office of the chief minister, Justice S Gurnam Singh twice, L S Gill and S S Barnala once and P S Badal five times, the longest period and still holding the baton.
The prominent party presidents were Tara Singh, Hukam Singh, Sant Fateh Singh, J S Talwandi, Sant H S Longowal, S S Barnala and senior Badal. One of the oldest parties Akali Dal was also deserted by its leaders like Hukam Singh, Buta Singh and Amrinder Singh to join the Congress party.

The author is a communication consultant
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