Amid slow build-up at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) rally on the second day of Shaheedi Jor Mela here, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal did his best to sell his party’s Panthic agenda, with an eye on the 2017 state elections.
In his public address, he accused the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of misleading people and warned people against falling for the separatist agenda of SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann. “We yearn to visit our historic gurdwaras left in Pakistan after Partition. Do we want another situation where we lose access to our Delhi and Bihar shrines as well?” he asked the gathering.
The Akalis are fresh from facing mass outrage over the desecration of the Sikh holy book in many cities and mishandling of the situation. “There’s nothing bad in mixing religion and politics, since both do good to mankind, but one should be on guard against political parties that divide society by exploiting religious sentiments,” he said.
“The Congress deprived Punjab of its capital, legitimate share in river waters, and Punjabi-speaking areas, besides ordering the military raid on the Golden Temple and killing thousands of Sikhs in the 1984 riots. Justice is not yet delivered. Will you hand over the state to murderers?” Badal asked the crowd. Anyone who joined hands with the Congress, he said, would be partner in its crimes.
He dubbed state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh “a turncoat who left the Akali Dal because he was denied election ticket”. “When he came to me for ticket, I asked him if he had ever gone to jail or led a protest for the state’s interest. He said he was a royal, and royals didn’t do all those things,” said the CM. “Then there is the Aam Adami Party, which thinks it can sweep corruption away by just having a broom as its election symbol. The people joining it are discards,” he added.
He dubbed both AAP state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur and former state Congress spokesman Sukhpal Singh Khaira “habitual turncoats”. “If I quit my party, tomorrow no one would say hello to me or even offer me a cup of tea,” said Badal.
Cong enemy of Sikhs: Sukhbir
At the Akali rally, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal said only his party was the true representative of Sikhs, and it had stood up for them even in France and the US. “The SAD is your family, the Congress your biggest enemy,” he told the Sikh community.
“Even if we committed some mistakes in the past, we are still better than those who killed our people,” he said, adding that the previous Congress regime had spent nothing on maintaining Sikh historical places, while since 2007, the Akali government had spent a huge fortune on it. Taking a dig at the AAP, he said: “This topiwali (cap-wearing) party now wants to run the religious affairs of Sikhs, which the SAD will not tolerate.”
Interacting with the media, the CM said that at the next cabinet meeting, he would announce the decision to prefix Sri before the names of the holy cities of Fatehgarh Sahib and Anandpur Sahib.
Lakhs of devotees visited Shaheedi Jor Mela on Sunday to pay tributes to Sahibzada Fateh Singh and Sahibzada Zoravar Singh, the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh who laid down their lives in 1704, but the crowd build-up at the Akali rally was slow; and even though the venue was near the historic gurdwara and the SAD leaders on mike could not get a good response from the submissive crowd.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar announced a six-months campaign from the second week of January, in which 50 vehicles will travel to every village in Punjab to promote Sikh tenets.