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As Sukhbir Badal-led Akali faction faces heat, eyes on editor of an influential Punjabi daily

AS THE Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) battles rebellion within, one of the names that has seen constant mention is of Barjinder Singh Hamdard, 79, the owner and editor-in-chief of the prominent Jalandhar-based Punjabi daily newspaper Ajit — a part of the Ajit Group of Publications.

Akali Dal leaders supporting party president Sukhbir Singh Badal believe Hamdard is supporting the demand to replace him, pointing to the fact that the rebel leaders held a meeting recently at his farmhouse in Jalandhar. While Hamdard was not present at the meeting, he is known to have separately met some of the SAD rebels, including Bibi Jagir Kaur, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Prem Singh Chandumajra and Gurpartap Singh Wadala.

However, the rebel camp has denied that Hamdard has any hand in their demand, citing their long acquaintance with him as the reason behind the decision to hold the meeting at his farmhouse. Hamdard himself has remained unavailable for comment.

Ajit commands considerable influence in Punjab’s rural areas, a reason why political players have always courted its owners. Hamdard, a former Rajya Sabha MP and recipient of the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards, has long been known to be close to the SAD leadership, especially the late Parkash Singh Badal.

Under the Akali-BJP government of 2012 to 2017, then CM Parkash Badal had entrusted Hamdard with significant responsibilities in its Rs 300-crore prestigious Jang-e-Azadi Memorial Project, to come up at Kartarpur in Jalandhar as a tribute to martyrs. Hamdard was made member-secretary of the Jang-e-Azadi Memorial Foundation, and chaired its executive committee.

Last year, when Hamdard met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, SAD spokesperson and Sukhbir loyalist Daljit Singh Cheema was the first

Read more on indianexpress.com