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Editorial

How Badals banished families of Akali stalwarts Tohra and Capt Kanwaljit Singh

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | August 20, 2016 05:34 PM

By Swati Walia
CHANDIGARH: It is not a story of survival of the fittest in politics. It is most disgraceful tail of the banishing two stalwarts of Punjab politics. Former SGPC President Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the longest reigning 'Pope' of the Sikhs and former Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, the architects of many victories of Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) faced the wrath of the then SAD president Parkash Singh Badal for raising voice of dissent.

Carrying the reveng to next generation, present SAD President Sukhbir Badal ensured that families of two leaders are wiped off from politics. He did it precisely and maliciously. Sukhbir Badal has marginalised the family members of both the leaders and then denied them the ticket from their home constituencies. While family of Capt Kanwaljit Singh was thrown out of SAD in the 2012 assembly elections, the family members of Tohra are shown the door before 2017 assembly elections.

The qustions were raised on death of Capt Kanwaljit Singh in a road accident (Report of Magistrial probe into the mishap was not made public) and Tohra was hounded out of party on demanding an acting president for party due to ill health of Badal. 

Capt Kanwaljit Singh was not happy the way Badal was promoting his son in the party. He was killed in a road accident near Kharar on March 29, 2009. The mystry of his death remained buried in the records of Punjab Government. He was Cooperation Minister in the Badal Government.

Tohra and Capt Kanwaljit Singh were considered rebels and potential candidates of top posts in the party and government, thus major threat to supermacy of Badal family. After Badal, they were only mass leaders in the Akali Dal and both belonged to Malwa region, the political pitch of Badal family. Eliminating senior leaders of Majha and Doaba regions is a different story where leaders like Kuldip Singh Wadala and Mohan Singh Tur and their families were sent into exile.

Crowned with 'Panth Rattan' title, Tohra had passed away on April 1, 2004. On his last death anniversary on April 1, 2016 at village Tohra, Parkash Singh Badal while recalling his long association with Jathedar Tohra, said that he (Tohra) was not merely an individual but an institution. Being a multi-faceted personality, he made unparalleled contribution in the political, social, religious and educational fields through his astute leadership and statesmanship. Badals were visiting the Tohra village whenever it suited them politically, particularly during the election year for sake of votes. Tohra had sizeable followership in the Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Ludhiana districts.

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Known as a hardliner, Tohra's image in Akali politics was that of a non-conformist and had at various times clashed with Surjit Singh Barnala and Parkash Singh Badal who had headed Akali Dal governments in Punjab in the eighties and nineties. In the ongoing tussle between Barnala and Badal, he joined hands with Badal in June 2003 after the SAD-BJP alliance lost power during the assembly elections.

Tohra became the acting president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee in 1972 after the death of Sant Chanan Singh and formally elected SGPC president for the first time in November that year. He remained on this post for 27 years. All these years he continued to support Badal.

However life of Tohra took a turn in November 1998 when he asked to appoint a acting president of SAD in place of Badal. He was hounded by battery of Akali leaders led by Sukhbir Badal and he alongwith Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh was finaly dismissed from party on March 16, 1999, few days before tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Sikh religion at Anandpur Sahib.

Tohra who formed a separae outfit Sav Hind Shiromani Akali Dal ensured that SAD loses elections in 2002. Badal buried the hatched with Tohra on June 13, 2003 and handed over SGPC back to him, Tohra accepting Badal as undisputed leader of SAD. Badal family though shaked hands with Tohra but Badal family had never forgiven Tohra for challenging supermacy of Badal.

SAD made Harmel Singh Tohra son-in-law of Tohra minister in the cabinet when it came back to power in 2007. The party gave ticket to Kuldip Kaur daughter of Tohra in 2012 assembly elections but also planted a party rebel against her to ensure her defeat. The SAD rebel against Tohra's daughter Satbir Singh Khatra is now made Halqa incharge of Patiala rural seat, removing Kuldip Kaur. Sukhbir Badal has denied ticket to the Tohra family for 2017 assembly elections.

The family of Capt Kanwaljit Singh was sidelined after his death. The wife and daughter of Capt Kanwaljit Singh had now joined Aam Aadmi Party after facing humiliation by Akali leaders. Jasjit Singh Bunny son of Capt Kanwaljit Singh who was elected MLA from Dera Bassi in 2007 was appointed Chairman of the Punjab State Cooperative Bank. Bunny wanted ministerial berth in place of his father.

The SAD had turned down request of Jasjit Singh Bunny to accomodate him in the ministry. He decided to resign from the post of Chairman of bank and contest as a rebel. Sukhbir Badal had at that time tried to pacify Bunny and told the media, "Capt Kanwaljit Singh was among the party stalwarts. We hold him and his family in the highest esteem. We are, in fact, proud of them."

The action of Bunny however annoyed the Badals and family of Capt Kanwaljit Singh lost favour of the ruling party. It is end of the story of two stalwarts who still lives in the mind of their admireres.

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