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Revolt in SAD: Netas ask Badal to quit, loyalists slam 'BJP plot'

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JALANDHAR/CHANDIGARH: A revolt erupted in Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Tuesday, just 20 days after the party's rout in the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab, with a sizeable section of senior netas urging SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to hand over the party's reins in the spirit of "tyag" (sacrifice) to someone "who can maintain a balance between religion and politics".

The faction loyal to Badal hit back with district presidents and constituency in-charges passing a resolution expressing "full faith" in his leadership and strongly condemning "deep rooted conspiracies by BJP " to divide and weaken the party by using central agencies and "some selfish and opportunistic elements". A total 33 of the existing 35 district presidents and 96 of the existing 105 constituency in-charges lauded Badal's leadership.

Badal said at a meeting at the party's headquarters in Chandigarh: "I cannot allow SAD to become a puppet of anti-Panth designs. Those ready to betray Panth, Punjab, farmers and the deprived sections of the people are free to follow their course."

A significant section of SAD's core vote base - the Sikhs - have turned against the party since the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan police firing in 2015 during the SAD-BJP regime. The slide has continued in successive elections and bypolls since 2017: in the recent Lok Sabha polls, SAD won just one of the 13 seats in Punjab.

After a five-hour meeting in Jalandhar, the faction opposed to Badal announced the launch of 'SAD Bachao Lehar (Save SAD Movement)' from the Akal Takht on July 1. During this campaign, SAD will contact sympathisers of the Panth, intellectuals, and others to seek their suggestions to "save the party".

Addressing mediapersons after the meeting, senior SAD member Prem Singh Chandumajra said: "We have appealed to Sukhbir Singh Badal that he should respect and accept the sentiments of workers and people and hand over the leadership of the party."

He said it was decided that the entire leadership which had "either participated in the wrongdoings or stayed silent will appear at Akal Takht to express regret and seek forgiveness in writing. We shall also perform ardas (prayer in Sikhism) to seek strength from the Guru to save us from such blunders in future".

While the meeting in Jalandhar was on, two separate resolutions were passed at the meeting in Chandigarh chaired by Badal. "Frustrated elements sponsored by BJP to float a parallel party or weaken the party from within can be seen in full swing. But these will not be allowed to succeed," read one of them.

Party members urged Badal to take action against those who are acting as "agents of the enemies of SAD, Panth and Punjab". A senior neta said, "We are not taking any action against anyone or expelling anyone... we said come to the meeting and discuss issues."

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