One family, one ticket, one election, at least 50 per cent tickets for Vidhan Sabha polls to women and others leaders below the age of 50 years, no chairperson posts in boards and corporations to the kin of party MPs and MLAs, and a break of one term for party president holding office for two consecutive terms are among some of the sweeping organisational reforms that the Shiromani Akali Dal announced on Friday. The new measures, however, would come into affect only when the SAD constitution is formally amended.
“This is the first lot of changes being affected in the party, which has always stood for Punjab, Punjabis, Punjabiyat and Panth (the Sikh community); batted for more autonomy for the states, and ensured communal harmony, irrespective of the fact whether it was in power or not,” party president Sukhbir Badal said while announcing the 13 “ground breaking reforms”.
He said more changes will be announced to revive the party, which has taken a hit due to “false propaganda” by the opponents.
Badal said SAD was “not the personal property” of anyone as has been “falsely projected”. The remarks come amid rumblings within the SAD against his leadership in particular and his family’s control over the party in general.
He said now the Akali Dal president would be eligible to hold office for two terms of five years each, and then take a break of one term.
“This will lead to induction of fresh leadership at the very top,” he added.
A party leader, however, clarified that the new measures would come into affect only when the SAD constitution is formally amended. Badal has been the president of party since 2008.
Earlier, the post has also been held by his father and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The reforms have been announced three months after party leader Iqbal Singh Jhundan-led 13-member submitted a report, making 42 recommendations to revive more the century-old old party, which was relegated to just three seats in the 117-member Punjab Vidhan Sabha in this year’s Assembly election. This is party’s worst ever tally. In 2017, when it went to polls after being in power for two terms, it could win only 17 seats. Badal’s functioning as party chief had been widely criticised by the senior party leadership following the poll debacles. He had dissolved the SAD organisational structure over a month back.
The reorganisation will take place by November 30 through party elections supervised by a new Central Election Body, Badal said.
Changes would also be effected at the party’s core committee, its highest level of decision making, he said. It would be reconstituted to include members of the new generation. Its members would include the youth, women and representatives of all sections of society, he said.
“The aim is to give maximum opportunity to workers and groom them as the next generation of leaders,” he said.
He said 117 observers would be appointed to oversee the organisational elections. Booth committees will elect the booth presidents, who will elect the circle presidents. They in turn will elect the district presidents. He said no district president would contest an election.
Badal announced that there will be one family, one ticket, one election rule in the Akali Dal to dispel the notion of nepotism. He said a parliamentary board would be constituted to recommend names of candidates from each constituency for fielding as party nominee. A disciplinary board headed by senior leader Sikander Singh Maluka had already been set up.
The Youth Akali Dal would be reconstituted, and the upper age of its members fixed at 35. However, the YAD president can be up to 40 years old. He said that the YAD and Students Organization of India (SOI) would be reconstituted and that the Sikh Student Federation would be revived.
The Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes would be given representation in the party at all levels.
He also announced the formation of an advisory board, including learned people from all walks of life, who would advise the party president on important matters.
Badal said the party would concentrate on developing the next generation of leaders by reserving 50 per cent of the tickets in the next assembly election for party workers who are below 50.
Changes would also be effected at the party’s core committee, its highest level of decision making, he said.
If boted to power, chairmanship of boards and corporations, both at the district and state level, would be given to party workers and not to family members of MPs and MLAs. “The aim is to give maximum opportunity to workers and groom them as the next generation of leaders,” he added.
He also announced that henceforth “all Sikh office bearers in the party would be ‘sabat soorat’ (following all tenets of Sikhism in their conduct and appearance).
The SAD president said the party would stick to its core principles, which include the need for a true federal structure and taking all sections of society and people from all religious faiths with it.
Jhundan, meanwhile, termed the announcement as “a good beginning” that “will boost the morale of party workers”.