The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) isn’t the only one worried about making perfect arrangements for the November 23 ‘Sadbhawna’ rally here. Violating rules to please its political bosses, the state government machinery has also pressed itself into service.
It’s not a government function but the ruling party’s image is at stake. District’s senior officials — from the bureaucrats to police — all making regular rounds of the venue to oversee preparations. Leaving his office vacant, Bathinda deputy commissioner Basant Garg on Friday held meeting at the SAD control room on the rally ground. He left in haste after photojournalists got after him. He, later, met Akali workers informally, besides attending the party workers’ meeting where deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was present. Asked about his visit, Garg said the administration was “acting like a supporting line only and concerned only with VVIP security”. “I was just sitting at the venue when photographers started clicking pictures,” he added.
Garg said that since lakhs of people were expected at the rally, their safety and the law and order could not be overlooked. Even, the officers on duty with Bathinda MP and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal planned arrangements with senior Akali leaders.
Alleging misuse of the government machinery, state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar said officials at the block and tehsil levels had even been asked to get people to the rally from their villages. “The entire government machinery is puppets in hands of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. Officials fear action, if they decline to participate in making arrangements; but people understand, and they surely teach them (the Akalis) a lesson by not going to the event,” he said.
Looking at the protest the Akali leaders are facing in the wake of the sacrilege incidents and farmers’ woes, the Bathinda police have made a separate control room at the site, where senior police officials are camping round the clock.
Taking no help: MLA
SAD’s Bathinda Rural legislator Darshan Singh Kotfata, in whose constituency the venue falls, said his party was managing the event alone. “Youth Akali Dal activists and officer on special duty (OSD) Charanjit Singh Channi are overseeing the arrangements. We have not directed any administrative officials to either visit the venue or get involved. I have made regular visits to the site and found no official there,” said Kotfata.