With a century old regional political outfit Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fighting this Assembly polls in Punjab to save its 'sinking ship' after a humiliating defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls is largely banking on its charismatic Parkash Singh Badal, 94, whose feet were touched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi owing to humility after filing his nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency in 2019.Also, for the first time SAD is testing waters after severing its ties with the BJP with which it joined hands in 1997 during the state polls and remained its oldest ally for 23 years.SAD patriarch Badal, a founding member of the NDA who before parting ways had always referred to ties as 'nau-maas da rishta' (nail-and-flesh ties), has jumped into the fray in these polls.Elderly Badal filed his nomination from his bastion Lambi in Muktsar district on Monday for the sixth time in a row. With this he's the oldest candidate in the fray from the state that he has been retaining since 1997. This is his 13th Assembly election.With the total immovable assets of Rs 6.71 crore and movable properties of Rs 8.4 crore, Badal is facing a case of alleged forgery of the constitution of the party in a Hoshiarpur court.
His son and SAD President Sukhbir Badal, the Ferozepur Lok Sabha member, is contesting from his stronghold Jalalabad for the fourth time.His Bathinda Lok Sabha member wife Harsimrat Kaur has filed the nomination as covering candidate from Jalalabad, the seat in Fazilka district that has a sizeable population of the Rai Sikh community.Harsimrat Kaur is also elderly Badal's covering candidate from Lambi.After filing his nomination papers, elderly Badal said, "I am continuing my relationship with the people of Lambi who have stood with me through thick and thin. I am also committed to nourishing the constituency always."He said he has complete confidence in the constituents."The people have made my campaign their campaign and informed me that they will ensure my victory with a thumping majority," elderly Badal, who just recovered from Covid-19, told IANS.Badal's party, which is just six year elder to him, came into being on December 14, 1920, to free gurdwaras from the control of mahants (priests) appointed by the British government.
The Akali Dal, which aligned with the Congress during the pre-Independence period, is toeing core its 'panthic' ideology to safeguard the interests of Sikhs. It was set up a month after the formation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).Ever since 1997, the Akali Dal had fought all the elections in the state in alliance with the BJP, winning three Assembly elections, till 2020 when it objected to the three now revoked contentious farm laws.Ahead of the Prime Minister's visit to Punjab last month, Badal asked Modi to create the right atmosphere for his much-delayed visit to Punjab by first taking some concrete steps to expose the conspiracy behind the on-going incidents of sacrilege against Sikh faith and resolving the other major political, religious and economic issues facing the state.He listed five major issues on which he said a prime ministerial package would lend credence and respectability to Modi's visit to Ferozepur."As the PM, you would earn a lot of goodwill and my personal gratitude, if before coming here, you announce an economic, political, agricultural and territorial package to meet the demands of the Punjabis."The former Chief Minister also drew the PM's attention to thousands of Sikh families awaiting justice for the massacre of 1984.
Badal had said the PM's visit would then truly be a welcome gesture and would heal many past wounds inflicted by successive Congress governments.He had also demanded a major agricultural economic package to pull the farmers out of the tragic crisis into which they have sunk as a result of agricultural indebtedness.
Badal had asked the PM to heed the expectations of Punjabis on the resolution of their other long-standing major demands, including the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas and the resolution of the river waters issue along Riparian principle.He had also drew the attention of the PM to the loss of over 800 lives in the struggle against the three back laws on agriculture and said that these sacrifices must be acknowledged by concrete gestures by the Union government to help their families.In the 2017 Punjab Assembly elections, the Congress had won an absolute majority by winning 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly and ousted the SAD-BJP government after 10 years.The AAP had emerged as the second-largest party, winning 20 seats. SAD won 15 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured three seats.