Parkash Singh Badal kicks up a storm, takes a dig at son, son-in-law

Bickering within the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Badal family came to the fore once again when Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal publicly snubbed his son-in-law, Minister for Revenue and Public Relations Bikram Singh Majithia at the conclusion of the Parvasi Punjabi Sammelan at Jalandhar on Saturday. Mr. Mathija is the brother of the Akali MP from Bathinda, Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

While the senior Badal is the patron of the ruling party, his son Sukhbir Singh is the president and Mr. Majithia, the president of the Youth Akali Dal. Till now, he was seen as the most influential person in the Akali hierarchy after the Badal father-son duo.

In his typical colloquial eloquence that was laced with humour and satire, Mr. Badal reminded the gathering that though the organisers of the event had lauded him for becoming the Chief Minister for the fifth time, they conveniently avoided any mention of his 17 years of incarceration during his political career of over six decades.

Mr. Majithia was floored when the Chief Minister suddenly asked him: “Have you ever spent a day in jail?” When he answered in the negative, Mr. Badal jibed: “ Pakki pakayi mil gayi , hun kabza karan nu firdey ne [You have been served a prepared meal, now you want to grab it].” The venue, packed with NRIs, Ministers, present and former MPs and MLAs, party leaders and top bureaucrats fell silent at this.

Earlier, Mr. Badal took a dig at his son who, while addressing the conclave, listed the achievements of the Akali Dal-BJP combine and sought to impress the NRIs that the alliance had returned to power on the performance card. “In the present political scenario, nobody votes for performance. Electoral success is based on the capacity of the leader to win the confidence of the people. That is the reason I am here,” Mr. Badal said. Responding to a plethora of demands and suggestions, especially those related to the streamlining of the departments dealing with NRI issues, the Chief Minister chuckled: “If you want to get your genuine work done and in an efficient manner, I am the only single window or the darwaza [door] if you may say. Come to me or you are free to opt other means that would mean harassment.”

Incidentally, Mr. Majithia is also the Minister-in-charge of NRI affairs and played a key role in organising the sammelan . At the inaugural session on Friday, the State government agreed to form a high-level committee and also consider the demand for a “one stop shop” for NRIs facing problems on different counts.

Under fire

Mr. Majithia has received flak from various quarters in the recent past. The State Congress has been demanding his removal from the Cabinet for his alleged high handedness and for patronising anti-social elements to “terrorise” political opponents. After he was involved in an exchange of abusive words with Congress legislator Rana Gurjeet Singh, the Opposition boycotted the proceedings of the recently concluded winter session of the Assembly.

In the Assembly, while speaking on the debate on law and order, leader of the Opposition Sunil Jakhar warned that the office of the Chief Minister had been hijacked, denigrated and usurped. Elements who resorted to high handedness had taken over, he alleged, “otherwise incidents like [the] assassination of ASI Ravinderpal Singh in Amritsar, abduction of a girl from her house in Faridkot and [the] assault of a serving AIG of police [in] Ludhiana would not have taken place if the reins of the government were in Mr. Badal’s hands.”