The Congress has accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the ruling party of Punjab, of misusing government machinery to bring in the crowds at the Akalis’ Bathinda “Sadbhawana” rally, a charge the Akalis have vehemently denied. However, for the peace-loving Punjabi, the rally had a comforting takeaway — the Akalis dismissed any hopes of the revival of the idea of Khalistan. The Congress has also been forcefully dismissive of the radicals.
On Diwali eve earlier this month, the radical leaders had declared that the “sacrifices” of militant leaders would not go waste and their mission would be carried forward. They were joined by a huge crowd in a massive show of strength at the Sarbat Khalsa. The radicals also announced the appointment of the incarcerated Jagtar Singh Hawara — the assassin of the ex-Chief Minister Beant Singh — as the Akal Takht jathedar. This sent alarm bells ringing throughout the state and beyond. Two weeks later, on the Gurupurab eve, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal sought to allay such fears when they took on the radicals at the rally.“Some people have raised worriesthat the old, dreadful days would return to Punjab,” said the CM. “This gathering has been called to dispel all such fears…You have proved that you will do whatever it takes to ensure that peace in Punjab is not allowed to be breached.” The Badals linked the radicals to the Congress leaders alleging that both had joined hands in vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in the state. The Congress scoffed at the charge and also claimed that the senior Badal had been hand-in-glove with those who campaigned for the separate nation of Khalistan. It seems the two main parties — SAD and the Congress — have rightly read the pulse of the Punjabis by positioning themselves against hardliners.