With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) expelling 23 rebel candidates who were contesting the Moga municipal corporation elections against candidates allotted tickets by the SAD or ally BJP, the party hopes to gain some ground.
The war between Moga MLA Joginder Pal Jain, whose son Akshit Jain is a mayoral aspirant, and Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh was an open secret ever since the elections have been announced. Deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal recently asked Tota Singh not to interfere in the Moga elections. Tota Singh’s close associates are in the fray as independent candidates in all the wards where Jain had fielded his camp’s candidates on the party symbol. Of the 50 seats, 33 are being contested by the SAD and the rest by the BJP.
The factionalism had become a reason for anxiety among party loyalists. Now, the SAD’s zero tolerance towards rebels has picked up its chances, according to observers.
A group of citizens issued a statement on Wednesday, that read, “The warning from the SAD patron (CM Parkash Singh Badal) and president (Sukhbir) to those supporting rebels is enough to change the course of the election. This will ensure maximum support to party candidates.”
The group included social activist Harbans Singh Johal, businessman Ranvinder Singh Gill and prominent sports trainer Maninder Pal Singh.
Jain, too, said, “The expulsion of dissenters who were trying to divide the party vote has sent a clear message even to the senior SAD leaders extending support to rebels. This will help party workers maintain discipline and follow decorum, which will reflect in the results.” In fact, knowing the role of the husbands of woman candidates who had filed nominations as independent candidates, the SAD showed no mercy to them too, adding their names in the list of expelled individuals.
So much so that noted SAD activist Jaswinder Singh Jassa was expelled along with his mother Gurmeet Kaur, who is contesting independently against Manpreet Kaur of SAD.
Similarly, Pavittar Dhillon and his wife Jagdev Kaur contesting independently from ward 13 also faced the party’s ire as the latter was pitted against a BJP candidate. Baljit Kaur, another SAD rebel, against BJP candidate from ward 19, was shown the door.
Among the major fights is the one in ward 12, where SAD rebel Manjit Singh Dhamo is contesting independently against BJP’s Munish Kumar; the SAD has expelled Manjit.