Son’s domination marks Badal’s one year in office

March 1st, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, March 1 (IANS) For a state that has one of the worst sex ratios in India, the ’son syndrome’ is pretty much evident in Punjab. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s son and MP Sukhbir Badal dominated most things in the 12 months the Akali Dal has ruled the state. Sworn in amid chaos at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium at Mohali near here March 2 last year, the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government led by Badal seems confused on what to say and what to do.

Three days before Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented his annual budget Friday with a Rs.600 billion (Rs.60,000 crore) loan waiver for farmers, the Akali Dal held a rally for farmers.

Though critical about the new budget, Badal and the Akalis took full credit for the loan waiver for farmers saying the finance minister buckled after the Akali-BJP rally in New Delhi.

Having remained the central agriculture minister himself, Badal should have known that a loan waiver of Rs.600 billion would take months of planning and not an overnight decision after seeing the crowds - ferried from all parts of Punjab - at the Akali-BJP rally.

But it was Sukhbir who dominated everything in what his father’s government did in one year in office.

Be it the ‘Atta-Dal’ scheme of proving wheat grains at Rs.4 per kg and pulses for Rs.20 per kg to over 1.4 million poor families in Punjab - the biggest election promise implemented by the Badal government - or talking about an international airport project in Chandigarh-Mohali, Sukhbir’s authority even over his father was quite evident.

The 81-year-old Badal senior though got his three-decade old ‘Adarsh’ (model) schools plan on the ground. The Rs.4 billion-scheme is meant for a few hundred select rural schools to provide quality education.

The government has given itself credit for many things - even the Bathinda refinery project being taken over by steel magnate L.N. Mittal.

Most of the other things are proposals and promises - from a Rs.30 billion Metro rail project for industrial hub Ludhiana to making the state, which presently suffers from 4 to 16 hour cuts, power surplus in three years.

Sukhbir, who lives mostly in the comfort of 24-hour power supply in the centrally-administered union territory of Chandigarh, recently asked people in Punjab to be prepared to sweat it out for three more summers - that is three years which will be the fag end of the five-year tenure of this government.

The alliance government itself has been largely stable despite the BJP making veiled noises every now and then knowing fully well that, for the first time, the Akalis cannot survive without its support.

After coming to power, the government went full steam ahead in pursuing corruption cases against former Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh and many others who held positions in the previous government.

Although apparent that it was a tit-for-tat for Amarinder Singh slapping corruption cases against the Badals and even jailing them in 2002, Badal said there was no witch-hunting but corruption would not be tolerated.

Interestingly, the entire Badal family is facing a corruption case in a Punjab court but most witnesses started turning hostile since he became chief minister.

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