Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal is all set for its big political show on December 8 that will launch the party's campaign for the forthcoming assembly elections.
This, and the fact that the date happens to be the 89th birthday of the party's patriarch, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, makes the event significant. But even more important is the political ground reality that the Akalis have again chosen Moga to launch the party's poll campaign as it takes a shot at a third consecutive term -- and fourth overall -- in power.
That the Akali Dal, which has been in power in an alliance government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2007, has opted for Moga again shows the political importance of this town and district in Punjab's politics.
Call it their lucky charm or political superstition, the Akalis have, in 1996, 2006 and 2011, launched their poll campaign from Moga and came to power within months in 1997, 2007 and 2012.
"Moga is an important political nerve centre in Punjab's politics. It has been a politically active area even in the days of the freedom struggle (before Independence in 1947). It is not only the Akali Dal but also the Congress and now the AAP which realise the importance of making the beginning from Moga," Balwinder Singh, a political activist from Moga, told IANS.
As Badal is also the oldest serving Chief Minister in the country, the Akali Dal is promising a mega rally in Moga.
"The Shiormani Akali Dal will organise a massive rally at Moga on Decmber 8. This will be probably be the largest rally to be organised during this year with people from all over the state participating," Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal recently told leaders at a party meeting.
Sukhbir Badal, who in recent years has been saying that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance will rule Punjab for 25 years, is upbeat about getting a third term in office.
On Dec 8, 2011, just before the January 2012 assembly polls, the alliance had sought a "clear mandate" from Punjab's electorate as it launched its poll campaign from Moga.
In September this year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is posing a challenge to the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Congress, released its manifesto for Punjab farmers with a political rally in Moga.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal released the manifesto.
The Congress too understands the significance of Moga in Punjab's politics and has held rallies here.
The well-known freedom fighter, Lala Lajpat Rai, hailed from Dhudike village in Moga district. During the freedom struggle, Moga remained actively involved.
Moga also came into limelight in 1972 as a students' movement caused ripples in Punjab. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had initiated a separatist movement against the government in the late 1970s hailed from Rode village near Moga.
Interestingly, since the first elections in the country in 1952, Moga has, except for two occasions, always elected legislators who were not from the eventual ruling party. Though Moga is considered a Hindu stronghold, particularly in the urban belt, in nine of 14 elections, the people have chosen Sikh legislators.
Moga, 180 km from Chandigarh and located on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur highway, was made a district in November 1995. Falling under the Ferozepur division, Moga district is surrounded by Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Sangrur, Faridkot and Ferozepur districts.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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