Monday, Jul 04, 2022

Not Retiring Yet: SAD Patriarch Fights His 13th Poll Battle

Badal has won five-times in a row from Gidderbaha seat in 1969, 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1985. He then switched to Lambi, winning five successive elections from there, from 1997 to 2017. 

Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal File Photo

At 94, Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal can be forgiven for skipping rallies and not going door to door for votes. His people are there to handle the electioneering in his Lambi constituency.

“It had been the practice earlier too that the party's local leadership takes care of the electioneering in Lambi while Badal Sahib remained busy in campaigning in the state,” his close aide and party leader Tejinder Singh Middukhera said.

“Badal Sahib is in regular touch with us,” he said. In the run-up to the February 20 assembly polls in Punjab, there has been help from others as well in Lambi, which falls in Punjab's Muktsar district.

SAD leader and daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal campaigned for him in the constituency. So did Indian National Lok Dal president Om Prakash Chautala, asking voters to return the SAD veteran to the assembly yet again.

Seeking votes for his long-time friend, the 87-year-old leader said his and Badal Senior's politics always revolved around the welfare of common people. According to the SAD, Badal stepped into the fray again when party leaders pleaded with him not to retire -- even if it meant defying age and a recent bout of Covid. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal is the party president.

Badal was discharged only last month from a Ludhiana hospital where he was admitted after testing positive for coronavirus. The five-time chief minister has now broken former Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan's record of being the oldest election candidate. The CPI(M) leader was 92 when he fought the Assembly polls in 2016.

Addressing a gathering in Lambi before heading for a medical check-up, Badal said the SAD has made the biggest contribution to development in Punjab. “I just want to say that it is only the Shiromani Akali Dal which has affection for Punjab,” he said, as multiple parties geared up for the elections.

“There had never been any need to tell us that you do this and you do that because I am one of you. Be it farmers, labourers or traders, I knew their problems and addressed them,” he said. The 11-time MLA is contesting his 13th assembly election. He won his first election from Malout in 1957.

Badal lost only one election -- from Gidderbaha seat in 1967 against Harcharan Singh Brar of the Congress by a margin of 57 votes. Lambi is a rural assembly segment, comprising 73 villages. The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Gurmeet Singh Khuddian and the Congress nominated Jagpal Singh Abul Khurana.

Khuddian, son of former MP late Jagdev Singh Khuddian joined the AAP after quitting the Congress. The other main rival is the son of former minister Gurnam Singh Abul Khurana. On facing a five-time CM in the polls, AAP candidate Khuddian told a gathering in Midha village, “Nobody is born chief minister, people make them so.”

He also attacked Badal’s party for its “failure” to deliver justice in 2015 desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot district. The AAP's chief ministerial candidate, Bhagwant Mann, who campaigned in favour of Khuddian in Lambi, predicted change in the state where the Congress and the SAD have dominated so far.

“In Punjab, the direction of wind has changed. The political inning of the Badal family is about to end for good,” he said. Mann appeared to suggest retirement for the patriarch.

“Due to the greed for power, the senior Badal is asking people for another chance to serve when he himself needs the help of four people to get on to the stage,” he said. “At the age of 94, when people pray and stay home with their families, Parkash Singh Badal is begging for votes for his son Sukhbir Badal,” he added. 

With inputs from PTI.