After the dismal performance by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls wherein it bagged only one seat, there are murmurs of discontent in the Akali ranks and calls for leadership change.

Talking to The Indian Express, senior SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said, “Change in party leadership is the need of the hour. I had raised this point earlier also and once again I am reiterating it. Although they hardly call me in any of the party meetings, I will put forth my point of view if they call me. We need to learn from our mistakes as the party’s graph is going down – from bad to worse.”

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the SAD got just two seats, while in the 2022 Punjab assembly elections it bagged only three seats.

A former union minister, Punjab cabinet minister and Padma Shri recipient Dhindsa had resigned from all posts of the Akali Dal in September 2018 following differences of opinion with the party leadership over sacrilege issue and poor performance of the party in 2017 Vidhan Sabha polls wherein the SAD could win only 15 seats in the 117-member House. In February 2020, Dhindsa and his son (Parminder Singh Dhindsa) were expelled from the party following which Dhindsa floated his own party SAD (Sanyukt) in August 2020. This new party contested on 15 assembly seats in 2022 elections in alliance with the BJP, but it drew a blank. In March 2024, Dhindsa merged his party with the SAD. However, he again got upset in April (this year) when his son Parminder Singh, former Punjab finance minister, was not given ticket by the Akali Dal from Sangrur parliamentary constituency. The Dhindsas stayed away from the Lok Sabha poll campaign in Sangrur throughout. However, Parminder Singh had gone to Anandpur Sahib and Patiala to campaign for the party candidates. Iqbal Singh Jhundan was the SAD candidate from Sangrur Lok Sabha seat this year who came a poor fifth securing just 62,000-plus votes.

When contacted, Manpreet Singh Ayali, SAD MLA from Dakha constituency (Ludhiana), said, “After 2022 assembly polls when the party won only three seats, a survey was conducted by a 13-member committee led by former SAD minister Iqbal Singh Jhundan which (panel) had suggested several reforms to revive the party. I was also part of that panel. So, once again, I say that Jhundan committee report should be implemented to get the party back on its feet. Until the recommended changes are effected, we cannot expect any improvement in the party. I had stressed a lot to get this report implemented but in vain. For the past two years, I haven’t been going to any of the party meetings, but still working hard for the party as I am attached to it.”

Festive offer

Ayali had hit the headlines in July 2022 when he ignored the party’s decision to back NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu in the presidential elections. He abstained from voting, claiming that he listened to the Sikh community and his conscience as the plight of Punjabis was ignored by the central government and many issues of Sikhs were lying unaddressed.

At that time also Ayali had pointed out the need for leadership change. He said, “In fact, after 2014, the party’s performance had gone down and serious reforms were the need of the hour.”

The only seat won this time by the SAD was

Bathinda represented by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. The party’s vote share has also shrunk to 13.42%.

Talking to The Indian Express, senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder said, “We need to self-introspect to find out the reasons of the poor show in the elections. But I am still optimistic that we will come back strong again. Crest and trough is part of life.”

Sukhbir Singh Badal is yet to respond on the party’s election debacle, but after the Lok Sabha poll results on Tuesday he had stated, “I thank the tireless and committed soldiers of the SAD for working day and night across the state during this long election campaign. , braving the unprecedented heat along the way. I am grateful to the people of Punjab and we wholeheartedly respect their verdict.”

Lok Sabha Election Results 2024: Full list of winners