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25 years ago, BJP factor led to SAD split, Badal-Tohra feud | India News

JALANDHAR: As infighting rages in Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), with Sukhbir Singh Badal camp accusing BJP of engineering a rebellion in his party, old-timers recall how 25 years ago, it was BJP that had become a factor that split SAD and worsened the feud between then Punjab CM and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra, leading to a coup against two top Sikh authorities – Akal Takht jathedar and SGPC chief.
In middle of 1998, Parkash Singh Badal had sparred with Tohra, with Badal’s loyalist executive members in SGPC sacking Akal Takht jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh. Then, after Tohra was shoved out, ministers loyal to him quit the Badal cabinet.
Tohra had then formed Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal and contested the 2002 assembly elections, which Badal’s SAD lost. The feud began with Tohra questioning BJP’s “Congress-like” attitude towards Punjab on important issues and saying that days of unconditional support to BJP-led central govt of NDA were over.
Tohra’s suggestion in Dec 1998 to appoint a working president of the party was trigger for an all-out war.
After Tohra’s criticism, then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee met him and Badal together. Mentioning this sitting and Tohra’s one-on-one meeting with Vajpayee to flag issues that had hurt Punjabi sentiments, political commentator Jagtar Singh wrote in his book, ‘Khalistan Struggle a Non-movement’, that: “In his (Tohra’s) perception, there was little difference between Congress and BJP govt in Delhi so far as Akali Dal was concerned.”
BJP had then claimed that Badal had briefed Vajpayee and then Union minister LK Advani and received their assurance that BJP MLAs will come to his rescue if Tohra group withdrew its support.

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