Dynastic politics comes to haunt Badals in Punjab

April 8th, 2009 - 10:02 am ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 8 (IANS) An undercurrent of dissidence over dynastic politics is becoming evident in Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal and the government, both virtually being run by the Badal family.

At least four members of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s family - immediate as well as distant kin - hold key positions in the government, besides the veteran Badal.

The virtual revolt by Jasjit Singh Bunny, who resigned from the Akali Dal and his chairmanship of the state’s cooperative bank last week, has become a clear indicator of resentment vis-a-vis the Badal family.

Bunny is the son of late minister and senior Akali Dal leader Kanwaljit Singh. After Kanwaljit Singh died in a car crash last week, there were demands that Bunny be inducted as a minister in his place.

Kanwaljit Singh was not only one of the most respected Akali leaders but also a confidant of the chief minister and a suave face of the Akalis.

But this did not happen.

Bunny not only quit the party and the post but has spurned offers to be ‘accommodated’ later from Chief Minister Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is the Akali Dal president and the deputy chief minister.

An angry Bunny vowed to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the Patiala parliamentary seat. His announcement came from the same dais where the Badals and Akali leaders were seated for a memorial service of his father Sunday.

The Badal duo was left speechless by Bunny’s defiant attitude. All that the Badal senior said was that Bunny was part of a Congress conspiracy but the latter has denied this.

“The Akali Dal and their government is a private limited company run by the Badals. They have ruined the state,” says former chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress party.

Chief Minister Badal is also chief patron of the Akali Dal.

His son Sukhbir Badal was made party president last year though several veteran Akali leaders, including Kanwaljit Singh, could have laid claim to the post.

When Badal junior was made deputy chief minister in January this year - the only instance in India’s political history where the father and son hold the top two positions in a state government - the annoyance within top Akali leaders increased.

The usually vocal leadership of the Bharatiua Janata Party (BJP), which partners the Akali Dal government and had been demanding the deputy chief minister’s post, meekly surrendered.

A senior Punjab minister belonging to BJP said on condition of anonymity: “Of course, the Badal family is promoting itself. We cannot say much about it because it is the internal matter of the Akalis. We have to accept the coalition dharma.”

The chief minister’s nephew, Manpreet Badal, is the state finance minister. Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon is the food and supplies minister while another relative, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, is also a cabinet minister.

Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia was made a cabinet minister in March 2007 though he was a first time legislator. He resigned in January this year to pave the way for Badal junior’s induction in the cabinet.

Sukhbir Badal’s wife and Majithia’s sister, Harsimrat Kaur, has now been given the Akali Dal ticket for the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat. This has left party leaders and supporters in no doubt that the Badal family is looking after its own interests.

Echoing a widely held opinion, Harcharan Singh, a shopkeeper in Mohali town, said: “The Akalis came to power with people believing they had good intentions. Now they just cannot see beyond their family.

“Are they so scared of other Akali leaders? The party will soon disintegrate if this family affair continues.”

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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