Chandigarh:  Veteran Surjit Singh Barnala, former Chief Minister and earlier a close associate of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Saturday said that he will re-enter active politics in Punjab where state Assembly elections are slated to be held early next year.

Barnala, who retired as Tamil Nadu Governor last month, said while talking to a news agency here on Saturday that SAD (Longowal), which was being looked after by his wife and party president Surjit Kaur and son Gaganajit Singh, both former MLAs, would contest the forthcoming Assembly polls.

Barnala said he was trying to assess the political situation after his return to Punjab and will try to build up a third alternative by aligning with non-Congress, non-SAD (B) forces, including former Minister Manpreet Singh Badal-led People's Party of Punjab.

"Several leaders are in touch with us...Only a few days back, I have come back from Chennai. From Saturday, I will be on a tour and meeting our old sympathizers and friends. I have programmes lined up in Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Sangrur and Barnala," he said.

The veteran leader is trying to make the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) a key force in the state's political turf by contesting the Assembly polls for the first time ever.

The veteran, who has remained a three-time MP and six-time MLA from Barnala constituency in Punjab, claimed that Punjab under Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) was on the down slide. Ruing maladministration and corruption were the main factors responsible for this under the regime of Badal, he added.

"Punjab is going down day by day. Compared to other states, we are far behind. Even Haryana is far ahead while Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are leaps ahead than Punjab," the octogenarian, who needs support to carry on his daily chores, said.

Barnala also said that Surjit Kaur, Gaganjit Barnala along with Ranjit Singh Nikra, party's youth wing President, have been working hard to build the party's base.

With elections to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) slated to be held later this month, Barnala said his party was part of the Panthic Morcha, an umbrella group of anti-SAD (B) forces, which are contesting the polls.

Claiming that SAD (B) charge of Congress trying to interfere in the religious affairs of the Sikhs was unfounded, Barnala said, "In fact, my party's and like-minded forces' fight will be to free the Gurdwaras from the Mahants (SAD-B's influence). There is gross misuse of funds, which we have to prevent".

With SAD, led by Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, often training guns at him, Barnala says it does not affect him much.

"I don't really care about what they and in particular what Sukhbir says. I have been a Chief Minister, six-time MLA, three-time MP and my political experience is more than Sukhbir's age," he said.

"The Badal family had nothing when they entered into politics. Over the years, they have made crores. How can they amass so much wealth other than indulging in corrupt practices," Barnala alleged.

He also charged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD (B)'s chief patron of scuttling the Punjab Accord or the Rajiv Longowal Accord.

Surjit Singh Barnala had risen to become Punjab Chief Minister in 1985. He was a Union Minister in 1977 and then twice in 1997, all as a member of SAD, now controlled by the Badals.

(Agencies)