Bathinda (Punjab), Nov 23 (IANS) With thousands of workers and supporters in attendance, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal put on a show of strength and indulged in open Congress-bashing, accusing the opposition party of siding with radical Sikhs and pro-Khalistan forces to destabilise the state.
The ‘Sadbhavna Rally’ organised by the Akali Dal, with alliance partner BJP leaders also attending, was an attempt by the party to re-assert itself politically after nearly two months of turmoil in Punjab due to protests by Sikh radical organisations and leaders who were protesting against incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book).
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is the chief patron of the Akali Dal, accused the Congress of creating trouble in Punjab by supporting the radical elements.
In an appeal to all opposition parties, especially Congress leaders Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa, Badal asked them to shun “divisive politics” and also advised them “not to play with fire with an ulterior motive to disturb the congenial atmosphere of peace, communal harmony and brotherhood in the state”.
“The flames of hatred politics would not only destroy the social fabric in the state but would also engulf them (opposition leaders),” Badal said.
He said the series of ‘Sadbhawna Rallies’, the first one organised here on Monday, were not political or personal “but to reinforce the trust and confidence of the people of the state especially after the November 10 function organised by certain anti-Punjab and anti-panthic elements supported by the Congress to misguide the innocent people by exploiting their religious sentiments”.
He said the actions of the radical groups and Congress leadership were clearly aimed at pushing the state back into the black days of militancy.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, in his address challenged the Congress leadership to organise another rally at the same venue to see how many people were with them.
“The Congress party should desist from playing dirty games. This rally is the beginning of the electoral battle for the 2017 assembly elections in the state.
Union minister Harsimrat Badal, who is the wife of Sukhbir Badal, said the Congress had always tried to destabilise Punjab.
A call given by radical leaders for a Punjab bandh (shutdown) on Monday fizzled out.