The recent double blow in the electoral field — arrests of its top leader in a drug case and the stain of sacrilege cases — had pushed the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the edge of a precipice, threatening to throw the party into a political abyss in Punjab. However, the special investigation team’s (SIT) virtual clean chit in the sacrilege cases could give the SAD the much-needed opportunity to claw its way back into the political reckoning in the state, say observers.
The taint of the allegations that the SAD was involved in the sacrilege cases and did little to bring to task those responsible dented majorly its chances in the recently held assembly elections. The party was completely decimated, managing to win just three of the 117 seats in the assembly.
The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had aggressively raised the issue of its leaders being involved in the sacrilege cases, which, observers believed, led to its drubbing in all politically significant regions of Malwa, Daoba and Majha. Former Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, now in jail for a road rage case, had managed to pin down the party to defending its position on the cases.
THE PANTHIC WAY
It tried to neutralise the attack in the recently held Sangrur bypolls, resorting to hardcore Panthic politics, hoping to recover lost ground. But the sacrilege cases stain was hard to erase.
ALSO READ | Navjot Singh Sidhu Condemns ‘Sacrilege Bids’, Says ‘Conspiracies Being Hatched to Disturb Punjab’
Despite pitching the sister of a Sikh convict in a terror case, the party ended up last in the polls, even behind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Even the issue of Sikh prisoners raised by the party to woo back its traditional vote bank, failed to get the desired results.
SIT, CBI PROBES
The SIT set up to probe the sacrilege cases blaming Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Singh and his followers, and making no mention of then CM Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal in the 467-page report, would give some ammunition to the party to target the Congress and AAP and help it find its footing ahead of the 2024 polls.
The five-member SIT, headed by Inspector General Border Range S P S Parmar, was constituted in April last year. This, after a charge sheet filed by an earlier SIT head Kunwar Vijay Pratap was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The probe carried out by Pratap, who is now retired and an AAP MLA, found that during the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab, incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib were “a pre-planned handiwork of Sukhbir Singh Badal, then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda”.
ALSO READ | Punjab SIT’s Final Report Counters CBI Probe, Blames Dera Sacha Sauda Chief for Sacrilege Cases
Significantly, an earlier Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe had ruled out involvement of the Dera and denied any political links. But the then Punjab government had rejected the CBI findings.
The present SIT led by Parmar also debunked the CBI’s claims ruling out Dera’s role. The CBI had given a clean chit to Mohinder Pal Bittu, a Dera follower being tried for his alleged involvement and murdered in Nabha jail recently. The CBI closed the investigation in the case for want of evidence against the accused.
What has caught the imagination of the political observers is that there is no mention of the Akali Dal in the latest SIT probe report, which is being construed by the party as a vindication of its stand that it was wrongly accused of being involved in the sacrilege cases.
After the SIT report gave a clean chit to the Akali Dal, it tweeted, “The @AamAadmiParty @INCIndia and other anti Panth conspirators exposed as SIT report vindicates Shiromani Akali Dal’s stand and proves its innocence.”
The @AamAadmiParty, @INCIndia and other anti Panth conspirators exposed as SIT report vindicates Shiromani Akali Dal’s stand and proves its innocence. 🙏🏼https://t.co/AyUlPCwoxf
— Shiromani Akali Dal (@Akali_Dal_) July 2, 2022
If sources are to be believed, the Akali Dal is expected to cash in on the findings of the report and try to clear its name in the political arena.
Even the previous Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh was blamed by his own party leaders for inaction against the Akalis in all sacrilege cases.
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