MogaIn the run-up to the assembly elections, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday focused on building Brand Badal during its much-publicised ‘Pani Bachao, Punjab Bachao’ rally in Moga.During the rally, coinciding with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s 90th birthday, the top Akali leadership made it clear that Punjab’s river waters would be its biggest poll plank in the upcoming elections.Projecting itself as the ‘biggest saviour’ of Punjab’s interests, the SAD reiterated the rhetoric of “not a drop of water to spare for neighbouring states” in the backdrop of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal row.Message from Moga: 5 takeaways from Akali rallyBrand 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 rungMoral 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 groundThe party also launched a two-pronged attack against the rival parties dubbing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the enemy of youth and the Congress as “anti-Sikhs”.“We have taken a pledge not to share a drop of water with neighbouring states. Already, we have given a burial to the inter-state water dispute by returning SYL canal land to the owners,” said Badal while addressing the rally.Also read | Songs and bhangra prelude to SAD’s govt rally over SYL waterAnil Dayal/HTAt the SAD government rally in Moga. Bringing its core “panthic” agenda and development plank on the centre stage, the SAD attempted to display its mass base through the rally.The party, which is facing anti-incumbency, opted for Moga again to launch its “war on AAP and Congress” as this Malwa district is a nerve-centre of Punjab and considered a “lucky poll- launching pad” for the Akalis, who in past have kick-started their political battles from here.“Indira Gandhi had hit at the heart of Punjab when she started the SYL canal construction by using silver spade prepared and offered by Amarinder Singh.”“Prosperity of Punjab is linked with water. But the Congress had given a frontal blow by conceiving and constructing the SYL canal. Captain Amarinder Singh and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in tandem had hit in the chest of Punjab by starting SYL canal construction. But we have given a complete burial to this canal,” said Badal in his 15-minute address, asking “bahadur Punjabis” to rise against “anti-Panthic” forces.“Get ready for any sacrifice. The Congress had historically discriminated against Punjab. But we have always taken historic pro-Punjab people decisions,” Badal said amid cheers from the responsive crowd.Over 20 lakh people also signed a petition that will be sent to the President on the river water tussle.“Naa hun jameen hai, naa hi paani. Asi pacca kamm kitta hai…Ab na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri.”The entire venue dotted with posters, cut outs and banners of CM Badal only with slogans such as ‘say no to SYL construction, come forward-oppose SYL” in a clear attempt to pitch the SAD patriarch as face of the party’s poll campaign.The BJP, an ally of the SAD, extended full support on the stand of Badal on water dispute as the BJP state chief Vijay Sampla said: “Against every drope of sweat of Badal, the BJP will shed its blood to save water of Punjab. To make country strong, Punjab cannot let a drop of water flow out of its rivers. Haryana is already getting enough water from other sources.”“Both the AAP and Congress have defamed Punjab youth by branding them as drug addicts. Be careful. If the Congress or topiwale (AAP) come to power, Punjab will be pushed back and your crops will not be procured. Don’t make the mistake of derailing the current pace of development,” said Sukhbir.