The holy city of Amritsar, is not only the birth place of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), but also has been the centre of its political and religious activities. However, it hasn’t established an office here since decades of its formation.
A few months after the formation of the SGPC, the SAD was floated in 1920 at the Akal Takht as task force of the apex gurdwara body. At that time, the SAD head office was near the Golden Temple and close to Teja Singh Samundri Hall, headquarters of the SGPC, and all kind of religious and political activities were controlled from there.
However, after the SAD split into two factions—one led by Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and other led by Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi—during the 80s, two more head offices were opened near the SGPC office. But after both factions joined hands, one office was shut and the SGPC replaced this building with Guru Hargobind Niwas, a sarai for devotees.
“The main office was behind Manji Sahib Diwan Hall (congregation hall) and remained functional till SAD president Sant Longowal was assassinated by militants in 1986. After that, the office existed there but remained defunct,” said Akali stalwart Manjit Singh Calcutta, former cabinet minister of Punjab, while speaking to HT.
“The office at Amritsar became useless after Surjit Singh Barnala assumed charge as the CM in 1985. With the formation of the Akali government, all activities were controlled from Chandigarh. However, the party rank and file wanted the office to remain at its birth place,” he said, adding, “This move makes it evident that the party has parted ways with its roots.”
Some sources from the party also said that a small defunct office was there till 1999. “The building was demolished by the SGPC in 1999 on the pretext of building a new sarai on the land,” said Kanwarpal Singh, spokesperson of the Dal Khalsa, which was in alliance with Mann’s party at that time.
At the central level, the then secretary of the SAD made an office at his residence for correspondence till a new head office was established at Chandigarh. At the local level, the head of local party unit made and changed their personal and temporary offices from time to time. But these did not belong to the SAD. At present, even none of these personal offices exist.
Even as the SAD ruled the state for 10 years, it failed to purchase land anywhere in the holy city for an office. On the other hand, its ally BJP managed to purchase a costly land at New Amritsar locality to build new office, equipped with modern facilities, though it already has an office at Harbans Lal Khanna Samarak.
“When the land prices were not so high, the party did not pay attention, now the prices are so high that it is difficult to purchase a land. Former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal made a proposal but it failed to take shape due to the assembly elections. However, the party is in dire need of an office like other parties and every SAD worker want so too,” said Gurpartap Singh Tikka, influential leader of the SAD urban unit.
Notably, Congress too has two offices—district rural unit (near circuit house) and urban unit (at Hall Bazaar).