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|October 9, 1999||
Barnala blames split, corruption for Akali rout
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Surjit Singh Barnala told rediff.com that the Shiromani Akali Dal suffered a big reverse in the Lok Sabha election because of the anti-incumbency factor.
He also admitted that the feud between Punjab Chief Minister and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra affected the outcome.
"If the party had not been divided and the Akalis had fought as one unit, they would have again swept the polls. But the Tohra and Badal factions were bent upon a showdown," he said.
Barnala said Badal and Tohra's egos did not let anyone mediate between them and make them see reason.
Another issue that affected the party's prospects was the corruption in the Akali Dal government in Punjab. "When people do not like an administration they teach the administrators a lesson," he noted.
He was critical of the way the party handled the electoral campaign. He said he tried to bring about an understanding between Badal and Tohra, but the two refused to budge from their respective positions. "They both knew the outcome before the poll. Yet they did nothing about it. As a result, the Congress party bagged nine seats from the state," Barnala said.
Asked why he lost to SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjeet Singh Mann by a huge margin in Sangrur, Barnala said when the anti-incumbency factor comes into play, there is little anyone can do about it. Tohra also campaigned against him despite the fact that he [Barnala] had remained neutral in the intra-Akali fight.
Barnala said Akali politicians would meet on Monday, October 11, in Chandigarh to discuss the reasons for the party's poor showing and ways to counter the challenge being posed by the Tohra faction. Badal will chair the meeting.
"We will take corrective measures to ensure that this loss is temporary and the Akali Dal-BJP alliance continues as before," the senior Punjab politician said.
Asked who would be the Dal's nominee in the new government, Barnala said, "This is the prerogative of the prime minister. Whoever he wants will be sworn in as representative of the party. Whether it is Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa or someone else, we will know only once the new government takes over."
With the Rajya Sabha election in Punjab some way off, there is little chance of Barnala himself returning as a Union minister.
He, however, ruled out any change in the state leadership for the time being. He said there is no revolt in the party against Badal. But in a democracy you cannot rule out such things at any point of time, he added.
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