Two months after the merger of Manpreet Singh Badal-led People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) --- a constituent of the Sanjha Morcha stitched by Manpreet ahead of 2012 polls --- too merged into the grand old party on Sunday.
The merger was announced jointly at a press conference at the New Delhi residence of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh in the presence of AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmad and campaign committee chairperson Ambika Soni and SAD (Longowal) president Surjit Kaur Barnala, secretary general Baldev Singh Mann, and Barnala’s son Gaganjit Barnala and grandson, Simranjit Barnala.
Like Manpreet’s PPP, which merged with the Congress at New Delhi a day after the Maghi rally in Muktsar, the Congress kept the SAD (Longowal) merger after its rally at Talwandi Sabo on Wednesday and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the state on Saturday.
On why was the merger not announced at Talwandi Sabo or during Rahul’s Punjab visit, Gaganjit said the decision was taken by the Congress.
Keen on mergers, Cong not ‘nagging’ allies
As it faces a triangular contest, the Congress is not willing to forge alliances with smaller parties but asking them to merge. With AAP now emerging as a third contender in Punjab’s pollscape, the splinter group of the SAD opted to merge and secure some seats for family and loyalists than be pushed into political oblivion. Though it has little political standing, the SAD (Longowal) enjoys panthic appeal among a section of Sikhs.
Though the Barnalas has initiated talks with Ahmad in January at Delhi, Ganganjit said they had no demands on seats and the merger was unconditional and in the interest of the “Panth and Punjab”.
“The SAD is no more a Panthic party but a gang of Badals. I too could have been deputy CM like Sukhbir Badal when my father was CM. But our party’s ideology is against dynastic politics. We are giving up our identity as a seperate party as Amarinder is a good Sikh and has Panthic appeal,” Ganganjit said.
On how would their party contest the SGPC elections after merging into the Congress, he said they out throw out “corrupt mahants” controlling the SGPC by supporting right candidates of other parties.