In Punjab, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is virtually running the administration
With the Janata Dal (United) out of the National Democratic Alliance and Sharad Yadav stepping down as the convener, the vacancy of this top assignment is being actively eyed by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, head of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and long-time ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In fact, top-level sources in the SAD have indicated to The Hindu that Mr. Badal has been sent informal feelers and he will be taking a firm decision after consulting the party once he returns from an overseas holiday on June 22.
This is not the first time that the Sikh leader has been considered for this assignment. His name had cropped up when George Fernandes stepped down due to ill health in December 2008, but Mr. Badal had reservations on taking on the responsibility at that time, possibly because his priority then was to consolidate his newly elected government in Punjab. The situation now is vastly different and voices from within the SAD are already exhorting him to take it up. “Senior leaders in the party are keen that he take up the offer and use it as a stepping stone to enter national politics,” said a senior Akali politician.
In Punjab, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is virtually running the administration and most see his elevation to the top job as a given one. The junior Badal has also proved himself to be an able politician as he has led the Akali Dal to several electoral triumphs in the last few years. All this is expected to leave Mr. Badal with plenty of time to devote to national affairs, but sacrificing the chief ministership to become the NDA convener is not an attractive prospect as yet, the sources have said.
It is also not without significance that Mr. Badal and his son were among the first to congratulate Narendra Modi when he was made chairman of the BJP’s campaign committee.
Besides, being a seasoned and sagacious politician, Mr. Badal will bring a vocal minority voice to the NDA table, one that is expected to blunt to some extent, the anti-minority tag that the BJP has attracted with Mr. Modi’s elevation. His supporters are at pains to explain that he is popular even within the miniscule Muslim population in Punjab and as five-time Chief Minister of Punjab, the octogenarian leader has all the qualifications to be the NDA convener.