Updated: October 4, 2021 7:32:50 am
WITH MERE months to go for the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, 93, who had stayed out of the public eye for a long time, has started making public and political appearances.
On Sunday, he addressed a party rally in Bathinda to protest against the Congress government in Punjab for cotton crop damage due to pink bollworm attack. This is the third time in last twelve days that he addressed a rally and was out in the field.
In the more than 30-minute speech, senior Badal told the gathering: “All your problems would be solved if they formed SAD-BSP government in Punjab”. He accused Congress and BJP of committing a betrayal of the people.
On September 25, he had addressed an Indian National Lok Dal programme in Jind to mark the 108th birth anniversary of late deputy prime minister Devi Lal, and sent out a strong political message as he gave a call to strengthen regional parties. Badal also took a jibe at the Congress government in Punjab saying that the party high command had “changed four CM candidates” in the past few days.
Though Parkash Badal cited close family ties as the reason for attending the programme, he ensured that a political statement seeking to get together regional parties was made.
On September 23, he visited Central University of Punjab in Ghudda village of Bathinda district and interacted with the faculty members, and expressed satisfaction with the development works of the campus, the foundation stone of which was laid in the year 2015 when he was CM.
After SAD was ousted from power in 2017, Parkash Badal had largely restricted his political activities. In 2019 parliamentary polls, however, he had joined the party campaign and was covering candidate of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, from Bathinda parliamentary seat.
Despite not making many public appearances, including not attending Vidhan Sabha sessions, Badal used to be active in his area and would maintain a connect with electors by attending functions and other rituals.
During the Covid pandemic, the nonagenarian was advised by the doctors to restrict his movement in public. “Now, doctors think that he (Badal) should get back to his normal routine,” said a person close to the Badal family, adding that ailments senior Badal had been suffering from keep flaring up. He added, “Badal sahib has chronic asthma and was hence strongly advised by doctors to avoid public meetings during the pandemic.”
A party leader said Badal’s health would be a key factor in determining how much he can campaign in run-up to 2022 elections.
Former minister and Akali nominee from Rampura Phul Sikander Singh Maluka told The Indian Express: “We have requested him to address a big political rally each in Majha and Doaba and two rallies in Malwa. He agreed to that, saying that if his health allowed he would address those rallies.” The rallies are likely to happen towards the end of the year.
SAD MP in Rajya Sabha and senior leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder said, “Why he has become active and why he was earlier restricted to his area only, I cannot say. But he always lived a disciplined life, meeting people, exercising, taking medicine – all without a miss.”
While asserting that Badal went to the Jind function as he and Devi Lal had close family ties, Bhunder added that the statement made by Badal to strengthen regional parties was “in the interest of the nation”.
Harcharan Bains, principal advisor to SAD president Sukhbir Badal, said, “He (senior Badal) had been attending functions earlier also, was only staying away from political events. His participation in the Jind event is an exception, but it was basically due to personal reasons that he went there.” Bains added, “The party has left it to Badal sahib to take decisions on his future course of action.”
Five-time CM and sitting legislator from Lambi, Parkash Badal is known to keep his cards close to his chest. On Sunday, however, he dropped enough hints that he would ensure to make his presence felt in the party’ poll campaign in an election where SAD would contest under the command of his son and party chief Sukhbir Badal. Said Akali patriarch towards the end of his speech, “Today I want to tell Sukhbir, though I have gone old and my health is also not that well, that I am ready to sacrifice my life also for Punjab, dignity of Punjab, farmers and farm labourers.”
Addressing the gathering, he summed up, “I have seen you after a long time and this I think has increased my life by two to three years. If that happens, I will score a century and continue.”
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