How the history will judge ‘Fakhar-e-Qaum Panth Rattan’ and fifth time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is not a hypothetical question as he also happens to be, in his own words, the politician with the longest inning in the political landscape of the country and he never longed for any office. Everything and everybody just fell in line. Of course, he has created a record by being the chief minister of Punjab for the fifth time. None should grudge him the sixth term.
He is one of the few senior political personalities who maintain their cool even under extreme provocations and he finds this quality lacking in the younger generation. One can’t say whether he was hinting at some particular person or persons in his immediate circle when he aired his frank opinion at a meet-the-press programme at the Chandigarh Press Club today afternoon at a packed house.
The two achievements of his career as the five time chief minister that he hesitantly came out with include his fight against injustice, to Punjab or the country, and his unequivocal sincerity to the Akali Dal. He would be the first to implement the party programme even when he personally differed on that issue on the party platform. Once the decision was taken, he never questioned that. But then the decision making has now narrowed down to his close family. He could not complete his first two terms as the chief minister. However, during the other terms, including the present one, he has been enjoying the unquestioned power. It is pertinent to mention here that before the 1997 Assembly elections, he used to sell the dream of transforming Punjab into California.
Here is a leader who is synonymous with the history of Punjab of about half a century but is not willing to go on record by way of biography or autobiography on the logic that it might create controversies as invariably has happened in several other cases. The one Akali leader who wanted to come on record was Gurcharan Singh Tohra but the time was not on his side, although history will be.
When Badal talks about the fight against injustice in the context of the country, that was the Akali Dal’s valiant fight against Emergency imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi to perpetuate her rule after she was unseated by the Allahabad High Court. The tragedy is that the Akali Dal finds no mention in any of the writings on Emergency. Recently, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah too did not made any reference to the Akali Dal struggle when he tweeted on this issue. Even the Akali Dal has not recorded that glorious chapter of its agitation against curbs on civil liberties. But then this was the struggle that the Akali Dal could have very well avoided and none of them had been arrested unlike other political parties.
He tried his best to clarify some issues like the Akali Dal’s troubled relationship with its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party asserting the two parties would contest the 2017 Assembly elections together. The problem is that the BJP leaders including ministers have turned vocal in airing their differences and the latest to join this bandwagon of disgruntled leaders is Industries Minister Madan Mohan Mittal. The two parties may end up as unwilling partners as the popularity graph of the BJP has started nose diving at the national level. The BJP is in no position to enter the election arena in Punjab at its own.
For Badal, and rightly so, maintaining amity and communal harmony is the basic issue as the state has been witness to the worst of times for more than a decade, one of the reasons for which had been the communal discord over the years. It was for the first time that nine Hindus won on the Akali Dal ticket in the 2012 Assembly elections. Ironically, a section of the Hindus is again now perceiving certain moves of the Badal government as suspicious which include the transfer of convicts like Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar to Punjab jails. He defended the transfers on human ground. He made it clear that it would pose no threat to peace with the assertion that he would not take any decision that would disturb peace and amity. He said wrong perception on such sensitive issues led to apprehensions. He had a word of advice for the media people to be cautious while reporting such sensitive issues.
In this context, he also took pains to allay the apprehensions of the Akali Dal reverting to Panthic agenda. He said the exhibition of relics belonging to the Sikh Gurus was portrayed by the media as Panthic agenda. He called upon the people to make distinction between religion and communalism as no religion preaches communalism.
On the likely outcome of the 2017 Assembly elections in the state, he said it was for the people to decide and at this stage, it was difficult to assess as to whether the main threat was from the Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party. What he was certain about was the partnership with the BJP.
About the conflict of political and business interests of his family, he said it was for people to judge.
He defended dynastic politics saying the next generation normally follows the same profession. Moreover, the ultimate test was the people’s mandate.
He also clarified that the main hurdle in the pre-mature release of the Sikh prisoners as demanded by several Sikh organisations was the stay ordered by the Supreme Court.He was all praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his role at the international level and his contribution to Punjab.

About Jatin Kamboj