Did Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa quit SAD only because of ill health?

Apart from declining health, other reasons are being read into veteran leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s resignation, particularly SAD facing allegations over incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib


NH Political Bureau

Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa on Saturday, September 29 resigned from all positions in the party, citing "advancing age and deteriorating health". Dhindsa sent his resignation to SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The resignation by such a senior leader from all party posts—Dhindsa is considered the number three in the SAD after the father-son duo of Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal— invited sharp reaction from other parties, with Punjab Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka telling a news channel that the senior SAD leader was "feeling suffocated" in the present setup in the SAD.

A veteran leader, Dhindsa, 82, is the president of the party's powerful core committee along with Sukhbir Badal. Apart from his declining health, other reasons are being read into the development, particularly the SAD facing allegations related to incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during Punjab’s last SAD government under Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2015. While Badal, 90, is still going strong as patron of the SAD, the resignation by Dhindsa has raised questions about political crisis within the party.

The party has been reeling from the fallout of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report, “which indicted former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and son Sukhbir Singh Badal in connection with incidents of sacrilege and firing”, News18 had reported. Senior leaders have been dissenting against the Badal leadership ever since the party decided to boycott the debate on the commission’s report in the Punjab Assembly, said the report.

The venerable Tribune noted that Dhinda’s resignation “has sent the political circles in a spin, given that resignation of a senior “Taksali” leader comes at a time when the party is facing its worst ever political crisis—politics over the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege incidents of 2015 have discredited the party as a political representative of the Sikhs”.

Notably Dhindsa, a former Union Minister, was absent at SAD's 'Jabar Virodh' rally, which took place in Faridkot on September 16, while the entire top brass of the party was present. That absence led to much gossip and speculation, and hence all were not surprised by Dhindsa’s resignation.

In an apparent damage control measure, the SAD issued a statement from Dhindsa's son Parminder Singh Dhindsa on Sept 29 evening, saying that his "family was committed to the Shiromani Akali Dal" and that he on his part would take this legacy forward after the retirement of his father, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa from active party work. Parminder was Punjab’s Finance Minister (2012-2017) in the last SAD government and is now a general secretary of the SAD.

Dhindsa Junior stated that his father's resignation letter was being misread. "My father has clearly stated that he stands with the party and that he will continue to serve in the Rajya Sabha. I, on my part, would like to state that our family has been given great honour by the SAD, party patron Sardar Badal and party president Sukhbir Badal. We have worked for the party through thick and thin and will continue to give our best to the SAD in the coming future also," he said.

Dhindsa junior said his father had undergone a bypass surgery recently and was also suffering from a shoulder and back problem due to which there was difficultly in movement. "Recently Sardar Dhindsa has been forced to have several pain killers every day to tackle severe pain due to which he took a considered decision to withdraw himself from active party duties. Nothing more should be read in this development," he said, adding he would continue to discharge his duties as party general secretary.

Incidentally the SAD, set up in 1920, is the second oldest political party in the country after the Indian National Congress.

With IANS inputs

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