The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is particularly worried over its increasingly aggressive partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) roping in Sikh faces in Punjab, and has also readied a "awareness programme against social evils, including the drug menace" to counter the saffron party's 11-day rally series.
Apparently in view of heightened activities of the Hindu right wing in the state, the SAD, at its core committee meeting here on Tuesday, also told Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar to mobilise Sikhs and intensify the activities of its Dharam Parchar (religious propagation) Committee, it is learnt.
Referring to Monday's resignation by former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar from the Congress and indications of him joining the BJP, Sikh leaders joining the BJP remained the primary issue of discussion. Leaders of the party said that a number of Sikh faces from both the SAD and the Congress desired to cross over to the saffron party that has gained strength after a historic Lok Sabha victory. The most prominent Sikh face of the BJP so far is former MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been ballistic in his criticism of the SAD.
Some Sikh leaders are expected to join the BJP at Amritsar on January 22 when its national president Amit Shah flags off an 11-day rally programme against drugs, an issue that has been at the heart of a blame game between the SAD and BJP ever since the coalition performed below expectations in the 2014 LS polls.
The SAD committee meeting that lasted nearly four hours saw discussion on this BJP programme, which comes close on the heels of the SAD's anti-drugs dharnas where the party had blamed some BJP-ruled states for the menace. As a reply to the BJP rally, SAD thus took the decision to launch a 'lok lehar' (public campaign) against social evils throughout Punjab, for which the chief minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal would announce details at the Maghi Mela conference at Muktsar on January 14, a leader present at the meeting told HT.
Meanwhile, even as the BJP is gearing up for civic body polls scheduled for February 20 and 25 and on Tuesday announced district in-charges, there was no discussion on the issue in the SAD meeting. The committee was upbeat about the response to its anti-drugs rallies on Monday at the Pakistan border. The BJP has made Union minister Vijay Sampla in-charge of the Badals' turf Bathinda for the civic polls.
Sikh prisoners' issue
It was also decided at the SAD meeting on Tuesday that a delegation of the party led by its president and Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal will call on Union home minister Rajnath Singh to raise the issue of release of Sikh prisoners who have purportedly served their terms. Former militant Gurbaksh Singh is on a fast at Ambala over the issue for over 50 days, and the party expressed concern over his health. The delegation would also comprise SAD general secretary Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, who met Gurbaksh earlier in the day.
Those present at the meeting included Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, MPs Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Prem Singh Chandumajra, and state ministers Tota Singh, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Daljit Singh Cheema, Ajit Singh Kohar and Sikander Singh Maluka, besides Sucha Singh Langah, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Harcharan Bains and Balwant Singh Ramoowalia