Electing the new Patiala mayor with the mutual consent of its councillors has become a tough task for the Shiromani Akali Dal high command, it seems, going by the unprecedented steps it was taking for the purpose. The mayoral election is scheduled for April 2.
The SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has formed a three-member screening committee to read the pulse of the councillors and to see if a consensus could be reached on a candidate for the post. Going by the party's tradition, all rights were reserved with the SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to finalise the name of new candidate for the coveted post and he used to disclose his choice on the election date.
On Wednesday, the SAD chief constituted a three member screening committee headed by secretary general of the party and Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, for talking to the party councillors and then recommend name(s) for the post. Other members of the committee are party general secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder and education minister Sikander Singh Maluka. The panel was scheduled to meet the party councillors on Thursday at 4 pm at Circuit House in Patiala, but later it was decided that the councilors would meet the panel in Chandigarh on Friday.
As per directions of the SAD chief, the committee was to meet all the party councillors individually and other local SAD leaders, before submitting a report to the party president.
In this 'parade' of all the councillors in Chandigarh, the screening committee would ask all the councillors individually about their choice for the mayoral post.
Sources said the party had changed the 'meet the councillors' venue from Patiala to chandigarh after speculations that a few aspirants of the post could resort to show of strength before the panel.
Maluka, when contacted, however, said the venue was changed because the screening committee members were busy in Chandigarh on Thursday and Friday. The meeting will be held in Chandigarh at 10 am, he said.
On the formation of the screening committee, another member of the committee said the decision was taken by Badals to avoid any controversy.
"All the aspirants for the post are trying to influence the Badals to set the tide in their favour. The CM and the party chief do not want to take onus of selection upon themselves and diverted the attention of the aspirants by forming this committee," he said.
In this traditionally Congress citadel, the biggest worry for SAD is the increasing factionalism among the councilors representing traditional vote bank of the party - urban Sikhs.