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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Less Panthic talk, SAD tries to piggyback on Modi factor

“Modi is all over. If elected for the second time, I will bring a PGI branch to this area,” says Chandumajra, an old Akali warhorse

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 04, 2019 09:48 IST
Gurpreet Singh
Gurpreet Singh
Hindustan Times, ANANDPUR SAHIB/SBS NAGAR
Questioning the Congress nominee Manish Tewari’s Panthic credentials, he says, “He (Tewari) doesn’t know the definition of Panth.”
Questioning the Congress nominee Manish Tewari’s Panthic credentials, he says, “He (Tewari) doesn’t know the definition of Panth.”(HT Photo)
         

At Dhahe village, 9 kilometres from Anandpur Sahib town, which is home to Takht Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five temporal seats of Sikhism, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal arrives at around 12 noon to campaign for his party nominee Prem Singh Chandumajra, who is seeking re-nomination from the parliamentary segment.

“Bharat Mata ki jai, jo bole so nihal…” this is how his cavalcade is greeted by party supporters. Inside a jam-packed party hall having 1,500-plus audience, Sukhbir asks, “Do you want a majboor (helpless) or a majboot (strong) Prime Minister? (Narendra) Modi is majboot.”

It is followed a loud cheer by the audience who flash ‘kesri’ flags with SAD’s poll symbol scales printed over them.

The message is clear. An alliance partner of the BJP, the Akali Dal, which is on the backfoot due to the 2015 sacrilege and police firing incidents that took place when it ruled the state besides internal rebellion in the party late last year, is trying to piggyback on the Modi factor.

“Modi is all over. If elected for the second time, I will bring a PGI branch to this area,” says Chandumajra, an old Akali warhorse.

Questioning the Congress nominee Manish Tewari’s Panthic credentials, he says, “He (Tewari) doesn’t know the definition of Panth.”

“We have Congress’ Amarinder Singh as chief minister who is inaccessible to all and has failed to fulfil whatever he promised during the 2017 assembly polls,” Sukhbir tells the gathering, reminding them of his father and five-time CM Parkash Singh Badal whom he calls a man of development.

“Dams, bridges, airports, national highways, power grids, mandis (procurement centres) came up during Badal Saab’s tenure. But you can’t count any achievement of the Congress. Also, you can’t compare Rahul Gandhi with Modi,” he tells a responsive crowd.

Sukhbir purposely chose not to tender any explanation on the sacrilege issue. But his party’s Daljit Singh Cheema, a former minister, says, “In the challan presented by a special investigation team (SIT) there are no names of Akali leaders.”

In fact, he rakes up the issue of Amarinder taking a vow by gukta (a booklet of gurbani) before assembly polls in 2017 to end the drug menace in the state within four weeks after forming government. “Amarinder ney gutka sahib di chuthi kasam layi si (Amarinder had taken a false vow of gutka sahib). He will have to pay for it,” he declares.

After getting selfies clicked with the party workers and leaders, Sukhbir boards his vehicle as the cavalcade is ready to leave for the next destination – SBS Nagar (Nawanshahr).

Then, a party worker loads some boxes of pizzas and burgers into Sukhbir’s armoured Land Cruiser.

“Lao ji, khao pizzey burger, made in Anandpur Sahib,” Sukhbir says opening a box of freshly baked pizza sitting on the front seat and pushes another box towards the rear seat where Chandumajra, Cheema and Harcharan Bains, an old-time party associate and media adviser to Badal senior, are seated.

After everyone has a couple of pizza slices, Sukhbir pushes some Diet Coke cans to them.

“I will not go to Ferozepur (where he is contesting from) for campaigning. The party people will take care of it,” a confident Sukhbir says.

As the cavalcade enters meandering on the roads in Una district in Himachal Pradesh with the Anandpur Sahib constituency adjoining it, the Akali leaders start getting frantic phone calls from the organisers of rally in SBS Nagar where they are headed to.

“No helicopter this time, sir?” someone on the rear seat asked. “Not this time. All have been booked already. Roads made during out tenure are good,” Sukhbir responds.

First Published: May 04, 2019 09:48 IST