Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal is known as Baba Bohar or Banyan tree of Punjab politics. However, this tree was uprooted in the recent elections as Badal lost from his pocket-borough of Lambi in Sri Muktsar Sahib district. The Badal family’s ancestral village also lies in Lambi.
The man who ended Badal’s 25-year-long reign in Lambi is Gurmeet Singh Khuddian of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Formerly with the Congress, Khuddian wanted to contest against Badal in 2017 as well but he was not given a ticket. Instead, Captain Amarinder Singh contested from the seat and lost despite a strong showing by the Congress in rest of the state.
Khuddian is an agriculturalist. His father Jagdev Singh Khuddian was an MP from Faridkot in 1989 from the Simranjit Singh Mann faction of the SAD.
His father died under mysterious circumstances – he had disappeared from Khuddian village on 28 December 1989 and less than a week later his body was found in a canal nearby.
Khuddian’s Father Also Defeated Giants Before His Mysterious Death
In the 2022 Assembly election, Khuddian secured 66,313 votes, defeating Badal by more than 11,000 votes.
This is only Badal senior’s second defeat in his career who. He has been the chief minister of Punjab 5 times, MLA for 10 terms and won 11 out of 13 elections he contested.
Khuddian’s father Jagdev Singh had also defeated political giants in the election he won. In the 1989 Lok Sabha election, he defeated Congress veteran and former Haryana Governor Harcharan Singh Brar who later went on to become the chief minister of Punjab in 1995. In that election, Khuddian also defeated sitting Akali Dal MP Shaminder Singh.
In 1989, Jagdev Khuddian and his party the SAD (Mann) - had benefitted from a wave of anger against Operation Bluestar, the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and police atrocities. The party won 6 out of Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats.
Over three decades later his son has benefited from another wave against established political parties and defeated Punjab’s tallest political leader Parkash Singh Badal.
Jagdev Singh Khuddian’s death was extremely painful for his family. He had come back from Delhi after taking oath as an MP and disappeared from his home on 28 December, 1989.
Six days later, his body was fished out of Bhakra feeder canal. While the police had claimed that he committed suicide, Justice Harbans Singh Rai’s 39-page report had claimed that Jagdev Khuddian was killed.
The judge had raised questions on Punjab Police’s conduct.
At that time Gurmeet Khuddian and SAD (Mann) president Simranjit Singh Mann had both raised apprehensions about Khuddian’s death and alleged political motives behind it.
Gurmeet Khuddian had joined the Congress in 2004 and worked as a committed worker of the party for many years. During this period, he became the Muktsar District Congress Committee president for about five years.
He was supposed to contest in 2017 but Captain arrived on the scene in Lambi and Khuddian became his covering candidate.
AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal had then accused Captain of trying to help Badal win against AAP’s the then party candidate Jarnail Singh.
In July, 2021 Khuddian quit the Congress citing Captain’s inaccessibility and aloof ways of working, besides the non-performance of his government.
He later joined AAP and was fielded by party from Lamb.
Badal’s margins in the last two elections had been in the 23,000-24,000 range, though in percentage terms it had reduced a bit in 2017.
But in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, SAD’s lead in the Lambi segment came down to about 16,000 when Union Minister and Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur received a strong fight from Congress’ Amarinder Singh Raja Warring.
Unlike 2017, the contest in 2019 was extremely bipolar indicating the desire of anti-Badal voters to consolidate behind the strongest Opposition candidate.
This trend continued in 2022 as the Congress candidate lost his deposit and the entire anti-Badal vote consolidated behind Khuddian. Being from a Congress background may have helped him win the support of a chunk of Congress voters as well. But the main factor behind his victory was the strong desire for change.
Khuddian secured 48.87 percent votes pushing Badal to second number and Congress slid to number 3 with party candidate Jagpal Singh Abul Khurana getting only 7.47 percent votes.
Khuddian was confident of his victory even during the campaign against Badal. He had told a Punjabi journalist that he would defeat Badal and meet that journalist after elections in the Punjab Secretariat.
He finally seems to have realised his dream.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)