Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) lost power to the Congress in Punjab in 2017 when it could win just 15 seats in the 117-member state assembly. It finished third with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging as the main opposition party with 20 seats. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, 57, who is contesting Lok Sabha elections along with his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, spoke to Hindustan Times about his party’s prospects in the national polls. Edited excerpts:
What are the SAD’s prospects following its worst performance in the 2017 assembly elections?
At that time [in 2017], there was a peculiar situation in Punjab. [Chief Minister] Captain Amarinder Singh, as state Congress president, went beyond limits which nobody usually does. He publicly swore by the Gutka Sahib [a booklet containing hymns from Sikh scriptures] and Guru Gobind Singh while committing himself to tall promises such as farm debt waiver and vanquishing the drug menace in four weeks. A person goes to that limit only when he is 100% sure of something. Here he used the religious oath as a weapon. As per the typical Punjabi or Sikh nature, a person swearing in the name of gurus cannot go back on his promise. Nobody then knew that Amarinder was just playing a fraud on the people. That showed his character. Just to become chief minister, he took a false oath in the name of the guru. That impacted a lot of people. He promised to waive all sorts of loans from banks, cooperative societies… That became a major factor.
Then, the AAP was attacking only Akalis. We came under attack from two fronts. They blamed us for sacrilege. This election, things have changed. People have got to know the reality and realized that Amarinder is a liar who cheated them in the guru’s name. There is resentment against him. The AAP’s real face has been exposed. In two years, there is a non-existent chief minister in Punjab. It is like a car without a driver. Not a single new brick of development has been laid. All the facilities that we had given to the poor have been withdrawn.