(Clockwise from top left) Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, son Sukhbir Singh Badal, son-in-law Adaish Pratap Kairon and Sukhbir’s brother-in-law Bikram Majithia. (HT File Photo)
Pedigree holds the key in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to climb the slippery pole of electoral politics.
To turn the tide in its favour, the 96-year-old party that contests 94 seats has fielded 26 candidates from the clans of Akali stalwarts for the February 4 assembly elections.
And the pedigree is what SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal admits “cannot be ignored”. For, he himself is the prime beneficiary of dynastic politics introduced and institutionalised by his father and SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal.
Dynasty, indeed, shaped the political destiny of the Akalis in the January 2012 electoral slugfest, when an all-time high 28 kin of established political families had thrown hat in the ring and 15 of them eventually entered the Vidhan Sabha. Their win contributed in what was a stunning second consecutive victory of the SAD-BJP combine at the hustings.
“People trust a family that is looking after a particular constituency. But all politicians’ sons are not successful,” says Sukhbir Badal. “If you go to buy a horse, you look at its pedigree.”
While choosing his ‘horses’ for what has shaped up a three-horse race to rule Punjab, Sukhbir has adopted a please-all balancing act. The Badals, who control the SAD with a firm grip, threw the dynasty net further — from sons to sons-in-law.
The politics of keeping different power centres within the party firmly in Badals’ control is writ large in the decision to field not only sons but also four sons-in-law.
From Mohali is Capt Tejinder Pal Singh Sidhu, son-in-law of Rajya Sabha MP and SAD stalwart Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and convicted Bholath MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur has handed over the baton to her son-in-law Yuvraj Bhupinder Singh. Another son-in-law from outside the Badal family in the fray is justice Nirmal Singh (retd), who is eyeing second win this time from Chamkaur Sahib. Justice Singh, a retired high court judge, is a son-in-law of Dhanna Singh Gulshan, a veteran Scheduled Caste Akali leader of Malwa, who was union minister, while justice Singh’s wife Paramjit Kaur Gulshan remained Lok Sabha MP from Faridkot.
The power centre of the SAD remains the Badal clan. Sr Badal’s son-in-law Adaish Partap Singh Kairon is a minister and is seeking re-election from Patti.
Yet another cabinet minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, seeking re-election from Maur, is a relative of Badal.
If sons are shining, Dr Upinderjit Kaur (Sultanpur Lodhi), a former cabinet minister (2007-2012), is the sole torchbearer among the Akalis’ daughters. Her father Atma Singh was a veteran Akali leader.
SONS RARING TO RISE
To increase footprint of his family, agriculture minister Tota Singh himself is fighting from Dharamkot, while his son Barjinder Singh Brar from Moga.
Badal loyalist and Lok Sabha MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura’s adopted son Ravinder Singh Brahmpura (Khadoor Sahib MLA) is in the electoral arena, while Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra’s son Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra is testing his luck from Sanour. Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Rajya Sabha MP and Badal’s trouble-shooter, has bagged ticket again for his son Dilraj Singh Bhunder from Sardulgarh.
And to keep the flame of his political legacy intact, Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal opted out and fielded his son Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal from Raikot, while SAD’s old warhorse SS Dhindsa has relocated his son and finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa to “safer” Lehra seat.
Cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike (Attari) was brought under the SAD wings after his brother, an Akali leader, was shot dead by militants, while former education minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan (Qadian) owes his political career to his Akali ancestors.
The glaring example of dynastic politics remains the household of CM Parkash Singh Badal, the 89-year-old patriarch, who himself rose through the ranks of SAD.