The ‘Pani Bachao, Punjab Bachao (Save Water, Save Punjab)’ rally of the Punjab government turned into a fair where the gathering danced as singers KS Makhan, who is also a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and Lakhwinder Wadali performed, at Killi Chahal village in Moga on Thursday. The rally was organised on the occasion of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s birthday.
- Brand Badal: All billboards, posters and life-size cut-outs at and outside the rally venue had pictures of only CM Badal, seemingly to blunt public ire against the SAD second rung
- Moral ground: At the core of the rally was water-sharing, centred around the SYL canal, through which SAD sought to convey that CM Badal is the only saviour of Punjab’s precious water
- ‘Topi’ warning: Both Congress and AAP were attacked with equal intensity, with SAD chief Sukhbir Badal cautioning the youth particularly against “topiwale” (read Kejriwal-led AAP)
- Panth plank: Slogans and speeches painted Congress as ‘anti-panth’ and brought up Operation Bluestar, anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and also claimed that Badal Sr had “waged wars for the cause of Sikhs”
- Fight on: Despite facing anti-incumbency of two consecutive terms, the SAD leadership heaved a sigh of relief seeing the packed rally ground
The singing concert was organised for entertainment of the public gathered for the rally before the formal commencement of the rally, which was otherwise held to underline Punjab’s resolve against the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal to share water with Haryana and against all other water pacts too. People in the stalls and on the roofs of buses carried placards with CM Badal’s photo and messages such as ‘Say no to SYL’, ‘We are with Akali Dal’, danced.
As soon as the CM and his deputy, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal reached the venue, it was winded up.
Private, school buses used to ferry crowd
Sources said more than 5,000 school buses and other private buses were hired by the state government to ferry the crowd of thousands at the rally. Despite an alternate route plan issued by the district police, there was a huge traffic jam at the time of exit. Around 3,000 cops were deployed.