Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal may claim there’s no political motive behind the Sadbhawna rallies of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) but it’s hard to believe him after looking at the venue for Monday’s show.
When the SAD shifted its fifth rally in the series from Amritsar to Goindwal Sahib, it became clear that it was eyeing the Khadoor Sahib assembly by-election and its intention was not limited to giving a message of peace and communal harmony after the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. Ramanjit Singh Sikki of the Congress had quit the Khadoor Sahib assembly seat over a desecration case at a village in this constituency.
A lot riding for MP
Senior Akali leaders of the Majha region, including revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, are working overtime on making arrangements. Akali workers from Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts will be ferried in strength to Goindwal Sahib. The rally is vital for Brahmpura, as his son, Ravinder Singh Brahmpura, is being projected as the Akali candidate for the by-election.
The chief minister himself has held more than a dozen ‘sangat darshan’ (public contact) programmes over the past fortnight in the Khadoor Sahib constituency. A victory will lift his party’s popularity graph that has hit south since the sacrilege incidents and the police firing on Sikh protesters near Kotkapura that left two men dead.
Anticipating protests by farmers and radical groups, police have made high security arrangements not just at Goindwal Sahib but also in the entire Tarn Taran district.
Misuse of govt machinery
It is a political rally but the ruling party has exploited the government machinery to get private buses, school vans and other vehicles for the event. Many schools in Amritsar and Tarn Taran have been shut, even if unofficially, as their vans have all been put at the disposal of the Akali leaders.