Chandigarh : He may be touching 90 and may be the country’s oldest serving chief minister, but Punjab’s Parkash Singh Badal is not willing to give up just yet — politically speaking.
Badal, who has seen electoral politics from the year when the country got its independence in 1947, is readying himself for another electoral battle as Punjab votes for a new assembly next February. The wily chief minister had, in the run-up to the January 2012 assembly polls, termed them his last political campaign. But, with his Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) facing a challenge as it seeks a third term in office, Badal is again leading it from the front. Badal, who turned 88 last December, has increased the frequency of his ‘Sangat Darshans’ meetings with the public for which he travels to villages and towns to listen to grievances of people at their doorstep. Under this programme, Badal has travelled across the state a few times.
“Unlike other politicians who become inaccessible to the people after coming to power, I have always reached out to people through the Sangat Darshan programme. The rush at these events shows people’s faith in our government,” Badal claims. In the 2012 assembly polls, Badal’s son and deputy in the government, Sukhbir Singh Badal, emerged as the chief strategist, leading to speculation that he could be appointed the next chief minister. But Sukhbir remained content with being Deputy Chief Minister, even though there is no doubt in anyone’s mind in Punjab’s power corridors that it is he who calls the shots.
The SAD, along with alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had created history in Punjab’s politics in 2012 by returning to power for a second consecutive term, winning 68 seats in the 117 member house.