Akali Dal’s Goa conclave reinforces ideological shift
Sunday, March, 31 2013 - 13:43
By Jagtar Singh-
CHANDIGARH: The four day conclave of the Akali Dal beginning April 7 in Goa characterizes reinforcement of the ideological shift that this once Panthic party has been witnessing over the last few years. The party would take stock of the political situation at this meeting to gear up for the next challenge that is the Lok Sabha election.
The first such chintan baithak was organized by the party in 2008 in Shimla but it was the discordant note struck by then finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal that made the bigger news. He later quit the Akali Dal to chart his independent course. Otherwise it ended up as an exercise in routine.
This second oldest political party in the country for years kept itself confined to the gurdwaras and all its important meetings used to be held in the shrines. However, over the years, this character has been undergoing transformation and this process has been hastened up with generational shift in the leadership. The functioning of Sukhbir Singh Badal as the party chief is more in corporate style than being in Panthic traditions. Of course, the party resorts to the use of Panthic symbols and idiom but very rarely.
In the process, the party has succeeded in widening its base by making inroads among the dalits and the Hindus. The party experimented in the last election by giving tickets to a number of Hindu candidates and most of them won.
The party is no more laying thrust on the issues on which earlier it used to launch struggles. This is the result of the ongoing metamorphosis. Such issues used to be the main point of convergence among the Sikh peasantry, its traditional base. The impact of globalization is having its impact on the new thinking in Akali Dal with development agenda taking the centre stage. Significantly, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal even earlier used to have the image of a leader associated with development but that image was sectarian as he was perceived to be pro-rural. That is not the case with his son Sukhbir.
The party is in high spirit after successive victories with the latest being the Moga byelection and earlier the election to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee that has proved to be a new milestone for the party.
It is mainly the party MPs, MLAs and other senior leaders who are being taken to Goa. There is no formal agenda as yet and it is likely to be open ended discussion.
Interestingly, the first objective listed in the Akali Dal constitution emphasis on the propagation and protection of Sikh religion. Capturing political power is the second objective. The party is yet to release any new version of the constitution. The basic premise is that politics is subservient to religion. It is this philosophy that has undergone a total change.