Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s banner of revolt against Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal has resulted in a bitter to and fro. Sanjeev Singh Bariana talks to both on the face-off
You have had a long innings in the SAD during your more than 50-year-political career. What is the reason behind the strong outburst against the party leadership now?
I have very clearly announced that I will not contest any election in future. I am only opposed to the way Sukhbir Badal is running the party according to his whims and fancies. I had expressed my opinion seeking a change in party leadership during the party meeting, after we lost the last Vidhan Sabha elections in 2017. I was told by Sukhbir loyalists that he had been the architect of our massive win in the 2012 elections so the party should continue with him. I said when he had won the elections he was felicitated by the party, so, now when the party lost under him, he should step down.
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What made you so upset that you have reacted so strongly?
I had quit all party posts in September 2018 and sat at home. I got very disturbed with the way our party had forgotten democracy. I just could not see my party marching towards self-destruction. Junior Badal has wrested all control and is a dictator. Even his election as the party president this time was a farce. Traditionally, the election process began first at the circle level and then at the district level before it reached the core committee. Sukhbir Badal got his coterie of trusted lieutenants to propose his name and install him as the president. The whole exercise was a mere eyewash. I am shocked that he lied that I have won only one election. I have won four MLA elections. Yes, I won one out of three Lok Sabha elections I contested.
Can you name the Sukhbir Badal coterie?
I don’t want to name anyone. Everyone knows the names. These are names associated with money-making ventures of sand mining, transport, liquor and real estate.
Do you think you have enough support?
A: I have been joined by many like-minded leaders in my endeavour to bring in new light in the dark corridors of Punjab politics. Besides SAD (Taksali), I have received very positive signals from Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Bains brothers (Lok Insaaf Party), Sukhpal Khaira (founder of Punjab Ekta Party) and Ravi Inder Singh of Akali Dal (1920), to name a few. Certain old leaders who had shifted to Congress, AAP and other parties are evincing keen interest. We are working out our way ahead. Very soon, likely in February, you will be surprised to see the faces who join us in our march towards a new Punjab. These include leaders from our own party who are sitting and watching. We will then announce our future plan of action.
Are you confident of challenging the formidable Akali Dal (Badal) leadership?
Yes, Why not? The tallest leaders of our party, even in the past, had to make way for others. Doyens of the party during its formative years, including Master Tara Singh and Sant Fateh Singh, faced ouster when the ‘sangat’ felt its leaders had wavered from the path of party ideals. Later, Jagdev Talwandi too had to exit. Surjit Singh Barnala faced ouster after he allowed the Army to enter the Golden Temple.
You have also raised the issue of cleansing the SGPC. What do you mean?
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is being controlled by the same power group that is ruling the SAD. We need to first clean the administration of our gurdwaras to give them clarity in their mission and strengthen them to choose the right kind of apolitical leaders. Religion is the thread that binds our party, so religion will remain our top agenda. At the same time, we will work for the welfare of all troubled communities in the state, particularly the youth, workers, labourers and government employees.
Your son, former Finance Minister Parminder Dhindsa, has joined you after a long gap.
I reasoned with Parminder that he needed to look straight and see the ship of SAD ideals sinking. We needed to remind ourselves about how the party began its journey fighting for rights of people in 1920. We, today, have lost our way. Parminder was convinced, personally, before announcing his decision to join me.
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