Rift in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Raikot (Ludhiana) assembly segment came to the fore on Saturday as one faction blocked the Raikot-Barnala and Jagraon-Jalandhar roads in protest against the registration of a case against Milkfed chairman Jagtar Singh Bhaini.
Akali workers accused former legislator Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, party's man in charge of constituency from Raikot, of plotting against Bhaini. Hundreds of SAD workers continued the blockade for more than eight hours, which diverted traffic to villages. Commuters were a harried lot but the faction served them "langar" inside the vehicles, keeping in mind the elderly, women and children stuck up in the logjams.
One SAD faction supports Khalsa, while the other is with MLA Ranjit Singh Talwandi, who is from Raikot constituency but had lost the 2012 elections from Khanna to Congress contender Gurkirat Kotli, grandson of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. Bhaini, general secretary of the SAD, belongs to the Talwandi group. The Raikot police have registered a case against him of stealing a noodle-making machine from a plot. "The allegations are to belittle and defame the SAD (rural) general secretary," said one of Bhaini's supporters.
Even the party's rural unit president Santa Singh Umeidpuri failed to resolve the problem and, when contacted, said: "I am away from Raikot. Someone informed me about the allegations of Bhaini's supporters against Khalsa but I am unaware of the roadblocks. I will look into the matter and try to sort things out."
Verbal duels between the warring factions has been the Raikot's political scene for the past six months but the rift became public last week when the circle jathedars, along with dozens of sarpanches, panches, and block samiti members from Raikot assembly constituency, charged former legislator and constituency in-charge Bikramjit Singh Khalsa with indulging in anti-party activities.
The SAD leaders, led by circle jathedars Mohan Singh Talwandi and Jaswinder Singh Dhaliwal and nagar council president Amandeep Singh Gill, called upon SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, asking him to replace Khalsa, saying he had gone against the party in the election of block samiti chairman. These leaders led Saturday's blockade in Raikot.
"It (the case against Bhaini) is Khalsa's second major blunder in 10 days and if the action against him is delayed, it can cause irreparable damage to the party," said nagar council president Amandeep Singh Gill. Khalsa denied the charge and said it was the other faction that was trying to divide the party. At 6.45pm, after assurance from police that the case against Bhaini would be reinvestigated, the SAD workers ended the blockade.