Badal and Badal and Badal - relatively speaking!January 18th, 2009 - 12:50 pm ICT by IANS
Chandigarh, Jan 18 (IANS) There are no ‘badal’, Hindi for clouds, looming over the government in Punjab - but the Badals definitely are. And when Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal anoints his son Sukhbir Badal as the state’s deputy chief minister this week, it will be one more of the Badal clan in the ministry.The father as the boss with his son as deputy in a government will, perhaps be the first such instance in India’s political history.
Though Badal junior is tipped to be second-in-command to his father in the Punjab government - no one in the administration has any illusions on who calls the shots even without the official position.
Another Badal, Manpreet Badal - the nephew of the chief minister - is already in the Punjab ministry as finance minister.
Ironically, the ruling Akali Dal’s alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which used to cry hoarse over the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s domination in the Congress, is certainly not complaining now when the Badal duo hold the two top positions in the state.
The BJP’s central leadership has also indicated that it is ready to ignore the voices of resentment of its own Punjab leaders who are against Badal junior being elevated as deputy chief minister without the BJP getting its pound of flesh.
The Akali Dal runs an alliance government with the BJP in Punjab since March 2007. It does not have the numbers in the 117-member assembly to run the government on its own, and it is due to this that the Punjab BJP leadership wants that the deputy chief minister should be from their party.
For now, Badal seems to have silenced the state BJP, especially the claim of senior BJP cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia to be the deputy chief minister, by directly seeking a go-ahead signal from BJP’s central leadership to induct his son as deputy.
Punjab BJP leaders are sore that Badal never even took them into confidence before his party decided to elevate Sukhbir, who is the Akali Dal president now, courtesy his father.
Akali leaders say the need to induct Sukhbir into the government is being felt as the Akali Dal government tests the political waters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections slated later this year.
Sukhbir Badal’s induction as deputy chief minister is expected this week itself.
In the 18-member Punjab ministry headed by Badal senior, there are already three close relatives holding important positions.
Apart from Manpreet Badal as finance minister, the chief minister’s son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon is the Food and Civil Supplies and Information Technology (IT) minister.
Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law (wife’s brother), Bikram Majithia is the state’s Information and Public Relations minister and certainly a power centre in the present setup.
Former central minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s son, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, is also in the ministry as the Public Works Department (PWD) minister.
After Sukhbir is inducted into the government, his brother-in-law is likely to give up his cabinet berth to make way for him.
Majithia has even offered to vacate his assembly seat of Majitha near Amritsar for Sukhbir, who will have to win an election within six months.
Sukhbir is presently an Akali Dal MP from the Faridkot Lok Sabha seat. If he contests from Majitha assembly seat, Majithia is likely to be accommodated by fielding him from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
In that case, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who represents the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat now, will be politically run-out in the new alignment.