Parkash Singh Badal: Grand old man of Punjab politics

Chandigarh: BJP veteran L K Advani on Tuesday paid rich tributes to Badal, describing him as a doyen of Punjab politics who was a grassroots leader

BY | Wednesday, 26 April, 2023

Parkash Singh Badal was not the one to give up easily, on life or on politics. Only last year, the Shiromani Akal Dal fielded the patriarch again from home turf Lambi in Punjab’s Muktsar district for the assembly elections.

He lost but entered the record books for being the oldest person to fight an election in the county. This was his 13th electoral battle in a long political career that began when he became the sarpanch of Badal village in Bathinda district.

The five-time former Punjab chief minister died at a private hospital in Mohali near Chandigarh on Tuesday, nine days after he was admitted there with breathing problems. He was 95.

The grand old man of Punjab politics first became chief minister in 1970, heading a coalition government that did not complete its term. He was also the CM in 1977-80, 1997-2002, 2007-12 and 2012-2017.

In the last stage of his career, Badal handed over the reins of the SAD to son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also became the deputy chief minister under him.

Born on December 8, 1927 in Abul Khurana near Malout, Badal graduated from the Forman Christian College in Lahore. His first political posts were the sarpanch of Badal village and the chairman of the block samiti.

He entered the state assembly from Malout in 1957 as the Congress nominee. In 1969, he won the Gidderbaha assembly seat on the SAD ticket.

When Gurnam Singh, the then chief minister, defected to the Congress, the SAD regrouped. It picked Badal as its leader on March 27, 1970. The SAD formed the government in the state with the support of the Jana Sangh.

He then became then the youngest chief minister in the country, even if the coalition government lasted just a little more than a year.

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In 1972, he became the leader of the Opposition in the House, but went on to become the CM again later.

Badal’s governments focused on farmers. One key decision was introducing free electricity for agriculture.

The Akali Dal leader bitterly opposed the idea of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, meant to share river water with neighbouring Haryana. In 1982, he was arrested for leading an agitation over the project, which is yet to become a reality due to Punjab’s continuing opposition.

Under his leadership, the state assembly passed the controversial Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016. This was meant to reverse the progress till then on the project.

His party broke off ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party over the farmers’ agitation against the Centre new agri laws in 2020. He also returned the Padma Vibhushan award he received in 2015.

Badal’s wife Surinder Kaur Badal died of cancer in 2011. They had two children Sukhbir Singh Badal, the heir to his political legacy, and Parneet Kaur, who is married to former minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon.

SAD chief Sukhbir Badal’s wife is Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

BJP veteran L K Advani on Tuesday paid rich tributes to Badal, describing him as a doyen of Punjab politics who was a grassroots leader and endeared himself to the masses by working tirelessly for the state’s development.

In his condolence message, Advani noted that the former Punjab chief minister’s party was one of the oldest allies of the BJP and that gave the saffron party an opportunity to work together when the first NDA government was formed in the 90s.

Advani, 95, said, “I shared a long and cherished association with him and I admired him for his simplicity and commitment for the welfare of farmers and weaker sections of the society.”

He expressed his heartfelt condolences to Badal’s family.

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