1st Sadbhavana Rally: After Series of Failures, Akalis Hold First Public Appearance in Bathinda

BATHINDA, Punjab—The Akalis have formally come out of hiding after facing embarrassing protests throughout Punjab.  Following Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s pardon on the behest of the Akali Dal (Badal) by former Jathedar Gurbachan Singh and series of sacrilege cases in Punjab, the Akali leadership faced stiff criticism by the Sikhs.  Finally, after a period of nearly two months, the Akalis put forth a major rally in Bathinda yesterday.

While earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal had boasted that the Bathinda rally would undermine the Sarbat Khalsa gathering, as per estimates, there were 60,000 to 75,000 attendees in the rally.  Bathinda is the stronghold of the Akali Dal.   The rally was held close to the Chief Minister’s native village Badal.

The rally was given a unique setup.  A red carpeted area for the attendees was separated by a VIP lounge, which was then proceeded by the stage, which was setup rather high to provide safety to the speakers.  A large police deployment was seen in the days leading up to the rally, throughout Bathinda.  Barbed wire was setup to ensure no attendees are able to get close to the stage.

Free Bus Service & Paid Laborers Arriving in Bathinda

There were several key developments for the Akalis – by ensuring no stone is left unturned to make the rally successful, to some extent, the Akalis were able to uplift their image in Punjab.  There are reports that buses were hired from as far as Haryana and Rajasthan to fill up the attendance at the rally.  Furthermore, the Punjab Government had issued orders to various institutes, to ensure workers attend the rally.  There are also claims that the Akalis had hired daily wagers and migrant laborers to fill up the space.  Following its defeat in Bihar, the BJP also turned out to be an ally for the Akalis – for the meantime at least.

Harmony Just The Theme – Not the Intent

While Sadbhavana (harmony) message was used to promote the rally, it was far from the agenda.  While dozens of speakers addressed the attendees, there was no emphasis on how to upkeep the harmony intact in Punjab.  Chief Minister Parkash Badal mentioned that the rally was not a political function, rather to bring people together, however, he continuously lashed out at the Congress and others, for their “anti-national” activities.  His son, on the other hand openly declared that the “war is on” for 2017 elections.  He dared the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party to show such momentum as seen in the rally.

2015-11-24_sadbhavna_6Sukhbir particularly lashed out at the Khalistanis and labelled the Sarbat Khalsa 2015 gathering as “anti-national”.  Speaking on the continued sacrilege cases, Sukhbir noted that majority of the culprits behind the incidents have been captured by the Government while the 1-2 or who remain missing would be arrested soon.

His wife, Harsimrat Badal too lashed out at the Sarbat Khalsa organizers and blamed them for belittling Sikh institutions.  “What we are seeing today is a true ‘Panthik Gathering’, the previous gathering [Sarbat Khalsa] was not Sikh in spirit,” she added.  Manjit GK who had come specially from Delhi used the opportunity to express his anguish at Arvind Kejriwal. GK was seemingly still upset over the loss in New Delhi Assembly elections because of the Aam Aadmi Party.

During the rally, there were shouts of “Bole So Nihal” along with “Akali Dal Zindabad” and “Janta Party Zindabad”.  While the motive of the Sadbhawan Rally was to supposedly help build peace amongst Punjabi communities, largely the Akalis flaunted Sikh slogans throughout the rally to their own benefit.

SGPC Staff and Loyalist Former Jathedars Remain Missing

While during the rally, former SGPC President Bibi Jagir Caur addressed the attendees, other senior SGPC leaders remained missing.  While a number of Sikh issues were discussed during the rally, it seemed like the Akali Dal was not interested in carrying the baggage of the SGPC or the Jathedars along with them at the rally.

Liquor, Food and Empty Promises Lure Attendance

While liquor bottles were given out openly in large quantity, food was another factor that lured people to attend.  On top, local MLAs told promised farmers, NREGA workers and other disgruntled persons that their issues will be taken up at the rally.  These people got a taste of good food, but many who had come to inquire about their overdue wages and pensions, returned home empty handed.

Local Akali MLAs and sarpanchs had booked buses for villages throughout Malwa region, so prompted many people to just enjoy the political speeches.

The outcome from Bathinda

Either the Akalis are fooled, or they are attempting to fool others – either way, the verdict is that the Akali Dal is far from having rebuilt its public image.  Akalis are using their decade old tactics to buy votes, time will tell if these tactics work for 2017 elections but one thing is for sure – the attendance by members of various cults (including Sirsa cult) in large number may prove to be a big challenge for 2016 SGPC elections.  How will the Panth keep such people who wear turbans and keep kesh away from SGPC polling booths?


  1. The rally is a good step to promote harmony among all the different communities

    The Official motto should be.

    ” Nanak Nam chadi kala There bane Sarvatt that Bhalla”


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