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Thursday May 20, 1999
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Run-up to SAD split today
From A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, May 19 — The first concrete step towards a formal split in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) may be taken at a meeting of Tohra loyalists convened here tomorrow at a local gurdwara.

The meeting will be attended among others by MLAs, MPs SGPC members, district jathedars, ex-ministers, ex-MPs and ex-MLAs owing allegiance to the former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who was expelled from the SAD last week for six years for his alleged anti-party activities.

The meeting has been convened by Mr Surjan Singh Thekedar and will be presided over by Mr Tohra.

The meeting is expected to formally authorise Mr Tohra to "lead the party" and draw up a concrete action programme to revitalise and revamp the party.

A convention by the Tohra loyalists will be held at Gurdwara Alamgir on May 30 which will "derecognise" Mr Parkash Singh Badal as the SAD president.

It is being pointed out that Mr Badal was elected president of the party for a two-year term which has ended. Therefore, he is no longer the SAD chief. The convention is likely to elect Mr Tohra the president of the new Akali Dal.

The organisational poll is also due. A time-table in this regard is expected to be drawn up at the convention, thus paving the way for a vertical split in the SAD.

At tomorrow's meeting, Mr Tohra is expected to be authorised to take appropriate steps in consultation with Bhai Ranjit Singh, who continues to be described as the "Jathedar of Akal Takht" by the Tohra faction. Contrary to expectations, Bhai Ranjit Singh will not attend the meeting.

The meeting is likely to direct its firepower at the Badal camp for its various acts of omission and commission.

The meeting may demand a CBI inquiry into the "reckless expenditure" incurred by the Badal Government on the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in April.

It may also seek an account of Rs 3 crore allegedly collected by Mr Badal as party fund during the assembly poll held in February, 1997.

Meanwhile, Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra, MP, has asked Mr Badal to follow the example of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and resign from the chief ministership and presidentship of the SAD. He said that Mrs Sonia Gandhi had resigned after her leadership was questioned by Mr Sharad Pawar and two others. But Mr Badal was sticking on despite objections from leaders like Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra and others.

He also strongly refuted the SAD charge of a collusion between the Tohra faction and the Congress and said it was a "white lie." Everybody knew that it was Mr Badal who was "hobnobbing with the Congress and had close personal relations with Congress leaders like Mr Surinder Singh Kairon."


Consensus on Tohra
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, May 19 — Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra today emerged as the consensus candidate for the presidentship of the new Akali Dal to be floated in the last week of this month.

The new party will contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll by having an alliance with like-minded parties.

At a meeting here today Tohra loyalists, including Mr Major Singh Uboke, Mr Prem Singh Lalpura, Bhai Manjit Singh, Mr Harminder Singh Gill, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr Surinder Singh Gharhiala, Mr Kirpal Singh Randhawa and Mr Onkar Singh Sharifpura appealed to Mr Tohra to lead the proposed party to give a befitting reply to the SAD for "turning its back on Akal Takht".

Mr Tohra was present at the meeting.

The leaders said during the previous Lok Sabha poll, the Congress failed to win even a single seat from the Majha region. However, due to the alleged "anti-Panthic activities of the SAD, the voters of Majha would not allow it to win even a single seat this time, they claimed.

Mr Kirpal Singh Randhawa, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Organisation, announced that the people of Majha would launch morchas against Mr Badal if he continued his "anti-Panthic" activities.

He said it was a matter of concern that the Badal Government had failed to get the genuine demands of Punjab accepted by the Centre.

SGPC member Onkar Singh Sharifpura said Mr Badal had promoted his family at the cost of party workers. He appealed to Mr Tohra to make it a party of workers.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Tohra said no Sikh could survive by confronting Akal Takht. Senior leaders like Master Tara Singh, Sant Fateh Singh, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala and he himself had appeared before Akal Takht from time to time. Hence, Mr Badal should not hesitate to appear before Akat Takht. He said it was a matter of concern that leaders like Mr Badal had violated the hukamnama of Akal Takht.

Mr Tohra said the allegation that he had embezzled SGPC funds was uncalled for. He was ready to face a high-level inquiry in this regard.

Mr Tohra denied that he had ever removed any Jathedar of Akal Takht and maintained that Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode was removed as Jathedar when he was in jail. Prof Darshan Singh had himself resigned as Jathedar. He claimed that the Jathedar of Akal Takht could not be removed by the SGPC.

JALANDHAR: Senior Akali leader Sukhjinder Singh said here on Wednesday that a new Akali Dal under the leadership of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra would be set up on May 30.

Talking to reporters, he said the functioning of the SAD had been stifled and the rank and file were of the view that the party would not emerge victorious under the leadership of Mr Badal.

He said that Mr Tohra had been "victimised" for making a simple suggestion. He alleged that the party president had totally deviated from the ideology of the SAD.

Mr Sukhjinder Singh alleged that the claim of eradicating corruption was false as Mr Badal was himself encouraging it by appointing controversial and corrupt bureaucrats to important posts.

Saying that the economy was a shambles, he said that when Mr Badal took over as the Chief Minister, Punjab ranked fourth in the country in education and now it stood at the 17th position.

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