Setting the tone for the 2017 assembly polls, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday removed Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, daughter of former Akali stalwart late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, as halqa (constituency) in-charge of Patiala (rural) assembly seat.
Satbir Singh Khatra, who had contested as a rebel party candidate against Kuldeep Tohra in the last assembly polls, has been appointed as new halqa in-charge. Satbir is son of deputy inspector general (DIG) Ranbir Singh Khatra.
The SAD chief has also replaced Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu as halqa in-charge of Sanaur by appointing Harinderpal Singh, son of Akali MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, as the new in-charge.
These changes were made after taking feedback from workers, which was in sync with the survey got conducted by deputy CM Sukhbir Badal for each and every constituency in the state, party sources said.
Angry over the decision of the party, former state minister Harmel Singh Tohra, son-in-law of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, said, “Sukhbir has again taken an autocratic decision and preferred persons with deep pockets against the loyal party workers. He (Sukhbir) and the Akali Dal will face consequences of keeping Tohra family out of the Akali politics as it happened in 2002.”
He said it is more humiliating that Tohra’s political heir has been replaced by such a person who was instrumental for her defeat in 2012.
“Sukhbir is hell bent on writing off Tohra family from Punjab politics. I have no hesitation in saying that it was Sukhbir who had got Tohra family members defeated in 2007 and 2012 polls, by propping up our opponents,” said Harmel while talking to Hindustan Times.
Harmel Tohra, who had become a minister in the SAD-BJP government in the state, had floated a separate party in 2002 and was instrumental in the SAD-BJP defeat in 2002 assembly elections.
He said he will soon hold a meeting with Tohra supporters and will decide the future course of action.
Meanwhile, party sources said the non-performance was the reason behind the removal of Kuldeep Tohra and Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu as halqa in-charges. The decision was taken on the basis of a survey conducted by a private company, which had suggested that these leaders would prove to be weak candidates in their respective constituencies, they added.
The first indication that Kuldeep Tohra was no longer in the good books of Sukhbir came when the deputy CM called up Patiala deputy commissioner (DC) Ramvir Singh and asked him to not to give cheques of grants to the Tohra family members for distribution in Patiala (rural) constituency.
Similarly, Sandhu was found a weak candidate against Congress heavyweight Lal Singh. As Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra has represented Sanaur (earlier Dakala) seat in 1985 and twice remained MP of Patiala by defeating Sant Ram Singla in 1996 and Captain Amarinder Singh in 1998, the Akali Dal has decided to bring his son Harinderpal Singh Tohra to Sanaur to check the influence of the Congress in Patiala.
While Satbir Khatra is currently on a foreign tour along with his family, Prem Singh Chandumajra said, “The Akali Dal has given Harinderpal a big responsibility and he will try to live up to the expectations of the party.”
He said his son will start touring Sanaur from Sunday.
Meanwhile, SAD spokesman and cabinet minister Daljit Singh Cheema said, “In view of the coming Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, the party has started deputing hard-working and young leaders in different assembly segments and accordingly these announcements have been made.”
The party president has asked both the new appointees to stay round-the-clock in their respective assembly segments and work for the betterment of the area residents, he added.