Badals win constituency, while Punjab slips from control (News Analysis)

May 17th, 2009 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, May 17 (IANS) At a time when the ruling Badal family in Punjab should have been reviewing the Akali Dal’s dismal show in Punjab’s 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it seems to be rejoicing in its personal victory in the Bathinda seat.

Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur, who is also the daughter-in-law of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 80, defeated former Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh in the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat by over 120,000 votes.

A lot was at stake between the two top political families of the state - the Badals and the Patiala royals led by Amarinder Singh - as they came to a bitter political showdown in this constituency.

Though the round has convincingly gone to the Badal family, Amarinder Singh can draw solace from the fact that his wife won the Patiala Lok Sabha seat by over 97,000 votes.

Also, the Congress under him managing to get eight seats this time - a rise from its 2004 general election tally of just two seats - would give him and the party reasons to celebrate.

The Akalis, who won eight seats in the 2004 elections, managed to win only four this time. Akali Dal’s alliance partner in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won three seats last time, got only the Amritsar seat this time with cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu just managing to win with a 7,332 margin.

But for the Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal, 46, winning the Bathinda seat alone seemed to be everything as was reflected in his post-results statement.

Badal junior, who has been described as an “obnoxious brat” by Amarinder Singh earlier, lost no time in claiming credit for the Bathinda seat and saying that Amarinder Singh had “met his Waterloo” and that there would be a “political implosion” that will rock the state Congress.

The comparatively younger Akali Dal president failed to show political maturity in accepting that the first election that the party fought under his leadership had given it adverse results despite being in power in Punjab.

Badal junior had taken over reins of the party from his father last year - inviting criticism that the Akali Dal had become a personal fiefdom of the Badal family, ignoring the claim of several senior and capable Akali leaders.

When Badal junior was elevated in an unprecedented manner as his father’s deputy in the government too January this year, many Akali leaders started feeling suffocated.

Senior Akali Dal leader and former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa lost the Sangrur seat to newcomer and youth Congress leader Vijay Inder Singla. Charanjit Singh Atwal, deputy speaker in the outgoing Lok Sabha, lost too.

Sukhbir’s victory stamp was seen only on the Bathinda seat, that too because his entire extended family campaigned only on this seat. The other three Akali Dal winners won largely on their own.

Akali leaders are now contrasting Sukhbir’s leadership skills with that of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who they say led the Congress to a win in the 2009 general elections.

What the Akalis and Sukhbir Badal have failed to realise is that Punjab has voted for change within two years of the Akalis coming to power March 2007. The same had happened with the Congress government led by Amarinder Singh in the 2004 general elections when the Congress managed to win only two Lok Sabha seats.

The Punjab verdict in favour of the Congress is also seen as one for the country’s first Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Parkash Singh Badal, who remained out of limelight in this election and let his son manage things on his own, will have to come back centrestage to help the party regain lost ground.

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