The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) may have attempted to make inroads to the Congress bastion of Patiala Lok Sabha segment by appointing Deepinder Singh Dhillon as the chairman of the district planning committee, but things will not be as easy for Dhillon as they look for he faces the tag of an 'outsider'.
Dhillon, once a close associate of union minister of state for foreign affairs Preneet Kaur, is still a fresher in the SAD as he joined the party this month only after the Congress denied him ticket from Dera Bassi assembly segment of SAS Nagar district and he contested as an Independent and won.
He also is completely new to the politics of Patiala as he does not belong to the district. His base of political activities till now has remained in Dera Bassi and his ancestral village is in Faridkot district.
Though deputy chief minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal had claimed that Dhillon's appointment as district planning committee chairman had approval of the party rank and file, but murmurs of dissent in the SAD were evident when local SAD leaders skipped the thanksgiving rally organised by Dhillon's supporters. In the rally, majority of the gathering comprised Dhillon supporters from Dera Bassi assembly segment and the handful local SAD leaders, who were present, kept themselves away from the forefront activities.
Notably, the names of most of the local SAD leaders were missing from the hoardings installed to congratulate Dhillon.
Dhillon's elevation to the plum post has left many a senior SAD leaders of Patiala district red faced. During the last tenure of the SAD-BJP regime (2007-12), Surjit Singh Rakhra, now rural development minister, who last time had lost assembly election from Samana, held this post.
"Our resentment has value. Till now Dhillon has focused in Dera Bassi or Mohali. If the party needs his services, he should have been adjusted in the district, where he is active. This move has certainly hit the morale of the SAD workers and leadership in the district," a senior SAD leader from district lamented on the condition of anonymity.
When Sukhbir was asked in the press conference about making an 'outsider' as the head of district planning committee, he tried to downplay the issue. "There is no such issue. Dhillon is capable enough and moreover, he belongs to Dera Bassi, which falls in the Patiala Lok Sabha segment," said Sukhbir.
Whether or not Dhillon will perform up to the expectations of the people, only time will tell, but the immediate job at his hands is to win the confidence of the local party leaders.