At 88, Punjab CM Badal Gears Up For Yet Another Election Battle
Badal still travels to villages and towns to listen to the problems faced by people.
He may be touching 90 and may be the country’s oldest serving chief minister, but Punjab’s Parkash Singh Badal is not willing to give up just yet – politically speaking.
Badal, who has seen electoral politics from the year the country got its independence in 1947, is readying himself for another battle as Punjab votes for a new Assembly next February.
The wily Chief Minister had, in the run-up to the January 2012 assembly polls, termed it his last political campaign. But, with his Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) facing a challenge as it seeks a third term in office, Badal is again leading from the front.
Badal, who turned 88 last December, has increased the frequency of his ‘Sangat Darshan’ meetings with the public for which he travels to villages and towns to listen to grievances of people at their doorstep. Under this programme, Badal has travelled across the state a few times.
The rush at ‘Sangat Darshans’ show people’s faith in our government.Badal
In the 2012 Assembly polls, Badal’s son and deputy in the government, Sukhbir Singh Badal, emerged as the chief strategist, leading to speculation that he could be appointed the next chief minister. But Sukhbir remained content with being Deputy Chief Minister, even though there is no doubt in Punjab’s power corridors that it is he who calls the shots.
The SAD, along with alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had created history in Punjab’s politics in 2012 by returning to power for a second consecutive term, winning 68 seats in the 117 member house. The main opposition Congress had to face electoral humiliation.
But it is not for the love of politics alone that Badal is readying for another electoral innings.
SAD-BJP Alliance Vs Congress Vs AAP
The political fight between traditional rivals, the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress, has now been spiced up by the entry of a new challenger – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AAP, which has made inroads in Punjab’s political scene and had even won four Lok Sabha seats from the state in the 2014 general elections, has emerged as a major force.
The confidence of the AAP leadership, and the fact that political surveys have given it a clear edge over the SAD and the Congress so far, has caused worry in the camps of both mainline parties, causing them to sharpen their attacks on the AAP in recent weeks.
Born on 8 December 1927, at Abul Khurana village near Malout in southwest Punjab in an agriculturist family, Badal forayed into politics by getting elected as a village headman in 1947.
He was elected to the Assembly for the first time in 1957 on a Congress ticket.
Leaving the Congress soon after, Badal ended up opposing its policies and governments.
Badal has always remained centre-stage in Punjab’s politics over six decades. He has been chief minister of Punjab five times – 1970-71, 1977-1980, 1997-2002, 2007-2012 and 2012 onwards. He briefly became a union minister in 1977 in the Morarji Desai government.
And, even in 2016, Badal is showing no signs of retiring.
(This column has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)
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