The decision of Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal to extend his holiday abroad has prolonged the agony of the party candidates eyeing the posts of mayors and deputy mayors, forcing them to spend some more restless and sleepless nights.
Confirming the delay, an OSD-rank official said Sukhbir was expected to return from his foreign trip by June 19, but he had rescheduled his programme since then and was now expected back at the end of this month.
Although SAD-BJP combine swept the municipal polls in four cities of Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, selection of its mayoral candidates has become a contentious issue for the alliance. Hectic lobbying is also being witnessed among senior councillors for the coveted posts.
Out of the four municipal corporations, stakes are high for the Akali Dal in Amritsar, where the number of SAD councillors is equal to that of the BJP and SAD is learnt to be desperate to appoint its own mayor. The outgoing mayor was that of the BJP.
In Ludhiana too, deciding the mayor has become a tricky issue for the Akali Dal, as its senior leader Harish Rai Dhanda, whom the party projected as its mayoral candidate before the civic body polls, lost the elections.
On the other hand, Patiala is witnessing a triangular contest for the mayor's post between sitting mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, revenue minister Vikramjit Singh Majithia's close aide Harpal Juneja and rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra's confidant Jashpal Pardhan.
In this situation, taking the final call is not going to be easy for the party. Besides, the Akali Dal is seemingly treading very cautiously in Patiala in view of the next Lok Sabha polls wanting to wrest control over the Congress stronghold.
In Jalandhar, where Akali Dal is set to hold the posts of senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor in coalition arrangement with mayor from the BJP, strong lobbying is on for the post of senior deputy mayor.
The fight here is between three councillors, including incumbent Kamaljeet Singh Bhatia, senior SAD leader Kuldeep Singh Oberoi and Parvesh Tangri, a scheduled caste leader of the party from the city. Bickering in the party rank and file is already high in the city, with SAD's tally getting down to 11 from 16 seats out of the 22 seats it contested.
Confirming the delay in deputy CM's arrival, SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema said Sukhbir Badal would arrive after 8-10 days and the final decision on mayoral candidates would be taken after that only.
Meanwhile, a mayoral contender from Patiala, on condition of anonymity, rued the delay in the decision and said this is bound to lead to a lot of tension for the candidates in the fray.