The suspension stick that Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal has wielded against party legislators Pargat Singh and Inderbir Bolaria indicates the unease within the SAD in the run-up to the Punjab elections.
The Tuesday-night action is an attempt to control the psychological damage, in case Jalandhar Cantonment MLA Pargat Singh joins the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It’s the first rebellion within the SAD to become public after Sukhbir’s cousin, Manpreet Singh Badal, stormed out of the party in October 2010 and floated the now disbanded People’s Party of Punjab (PPP).
Party insiders say suspending Pargat Singh and Amritsar (South) MLA Inderbir Bolaria was a “knee-jerk reaction” that the party could have avoided, and “something, somehow” should have been done to assuage the ruffled feelings of the former Indian hockey captain Sukhbir had handpicked to contest the 2012 assembly poll. Pargat was then superintendent of police and sports director.
The rebellion shows erosion of Sukhbir’s authority and it is likely to encourage more Akali leaders to speak up against his “autocratic style of functioning”. At least six Akali legislators, including Mansa’s Prem Mittal, are exploring sides to switch to buck anti-incumbency.
Undeterred by his suspension, Pargat launched a counteroffensive against his “one-time mentor” Sukhbir in Jalandhar on Wednesday. It will give ammunition to the opposition. Insiders say the suspension orders were to checkmate Pargat and Bolaria. However, these seem to have damaged Sukhbir more.