‘Sadbhawana’ rallies have become a prestige issue for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Deputy chief minister and party president Sukhbhir Singh Badal is overseeing all arrangements personally to leave no chance of a mistake on the show-of-strength day on November 23.
Along with a battery of senior police officers, he spent more than 90 minutes at the proposed rally site in Bathinda. Maintaining security is going to be tough at a time when the SAD leaders face protests from both farmers and Sikh radicals. For this reason, Sukhbir’s visit was kept a secret and even the local Akali legislators stayed away.
The Punjab deputy CM discussed parking arrangements as well, since he expects a huge gathering. Going into detail, he even planned the height of the tents and the stage. “Since I expect lakhs of people at the rally, I must take stock of the preparations myself,” said Sukhbir. For more than 15 minutes, he had a private discussion on security with inspector general of police (Bathinda range), Jatindera Jain and deputy inspector general RS Khatra.
He also asked cabinet minister Sikander Singh Maluka about the ground arrangements. Sukhbir said the Bathinda rally was limited to three districts — Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot — and no SAD leader from another part of the state would attend. “Maintaining peace and communal harmony is on the agenda. We’ll ask people to remain vigilant against anti-state elements who are trying to disturb law and order,” said Sukhbir.
Asked about the protests against Akali ministers in villages, Sukhbir said the protesters were sponsored by the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “If they want to fight, we will fight them out,” he asserted. Replying to a query about the impact of the radicals’ ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (Sikh congregation) on the Akali rallies, Sukhbir said event’s organiser Simranjit Singh Mann had exposed its reality on his own.
“Mann exposed that both the Congress and the AAP were part of ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ and aware of its Khalistan agenda,” he said.
“Protests against Akali ministers are sponsored by the Congress and the AAP. If they want to fight, we will fight them out,” Sukhbir Singh Badal said.