On the first day of the three-day election result review programme launched by the Shiromani Akali Dal, SAD president Sukhbir Badal had to face some tough time handling views from the district-level leaders, who were asked to speak their minds freely.
Unlike on the previous occasions, the SAD president did less of talking and more of listening. According to sources, Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra touched upon issues such as concentration of power and lack of seniority in the party structure, which the party top brass was not comfortable with.
Chandumajra was present at the review meeting the entire day, which covered eight districts – SAS Nagar, Rupnagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur, Barnala, Ludhiana, Patiala and Nawanshahr.
The SAD got into a huddle a fortnight after the parliamentary poll results; the agenda of the review meeting is to discuss threadbare what went wrong in the polls. They have called party leaders from all districts of the state to Chandigarh. The review meeting will focus on what is needed at the party and government levels for the party victory in the 2017 assembly polls.
According to reports, Sukhbir Badal, the deputy CM, heard the views of the leaders to pinpoint the reasons for the fall in the party’s vote share. Sources in the party said the meeting is also an attempt to gauge its perception among the people of Punjab and is also seeking suggestions to improve it.
“Unlike on previous such occasions, when the party used to meet its workers and leaders, the president this time was hearing more and talking less,” said a leader from Patiala, who added that the issues of drug menace, high prices of sand and gravel, intra-party politics, violation of protocol and seniority within the party, less workers and more leaders and concentration of party’s power in a few hands were raised.
The leaders told the party president that the issue of property tax had also boomeranged on the party.
“There was general consensus in the meeting that there should be supremacy of party and its workers, and instead of halqa incharges the party’s local rank and file should get prominence,” Chandumajra told HT, adding that the party president was told by the leaders that the party should not abandon its Panthic agenda.
Though the number of parliamentary seats won by the party is the same as in the 2009 parliamentary polls, the vote share has considerably gone down, if compared with the 2012 assembly polls and the 2009 parliamentary polls.
In the 2009 parliamentary polls, the SAD’s vote share was 33.85% and in the 2012 assembly polls the party’s vote share was 34.75%, which within two years has come down to 26.3%. It is a cause of worry for the SAD, which has its government in the state in coalition with the BJP.
Interestingly, the bonhomie and excitement with which the SAD-BJP coalition assumed charge of the state government in 2012, for the second consecutive term, was missing in the parliamentary poll results of May 16. Riding on the Modi wave, the SAD was expecting a better performance this time but the poll results debacle has forced the party to review the results and know the shortcomings.
“In the review meeting when the party president looked serious, he seemed to be targeting the 2017 assembly polls and I told him that the process of governance and functioning of government needed improvement,” said a leader from Sangrur.
Other party leaders who attended the review meeting were Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Tota Singh, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Maheshinder Singh Grewal and Daljit Singh Cheema.