Describing the late Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal as a man with a big heart and sympathiser of farmers and who stood like a rock against Emergency, Union Minister Amit Shah on Thursday paid homage to him by saying he always valued and practised secular credentials and his death "is a big loss for the country".
Sharing condolences with his family and followers at his native village of Badal in Punjab's Muktsar district, Shah said the passing away of the veteran leader is deeply saddening."His career spanning several decades was dedicated to the welfare of the poor.
His demise is an irreparable loss to Indian politics. The Sikh 'panth' (community) has lost a true soldier and the country the true patriot."Besides Shah, his Cabinet colleagues Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Som Parkash, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, besides several religious leaders and heads of Sikh sects, attended the "antim ardas" of the five-time Chief Minister Badal.
He died at the age of 95 on April 25, marking the end of an era of 70 years in Punjab's politics. His last rites were performed on April 27.In political circles, Badal, the country's oldest politician -- next only to BJP veteran L.K. Advani was known as the 'Baba Bohr' (banyan tree) of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
"He was the one who didn't have enemies," Shah, who offered flowers at a portrait of Badal twice as a mark of respect, said in his address."Badal sahab stood like a rock against Emergency to protect democracy."
Shah said he was fortunate to meet Badal on several occasions. "The memories will always remain with me."Describing Badal as a man who always worked for peace and communal harmony, the Union Home Minister said: "In a career spanning seven decades, Badal has held the post of Chief Minister of Punjab five times and a minister at the Centre.
He laid the foundation of the new Punjab."I am just told by his son (Sukhbir Badal) that in Badal village, Badal sahab had constructed a temple, a masjid and a gurdwara."Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the spiritual head of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, also reached the village to pay last tributes to the SAD patron.
While paying homage, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Harjinder Singh Dhami took up the issue of release of Sikh political prisoners. He also submitted a memorandum to Shah.
A day earlier, Badal's ashes were immersed at Kiratpur Sahib by his son and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal along with his family members and relatives.Sukhbir Badal's estranged cousin Manpreet Singh Badal, Akali leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra, Bikram Singh Majithia and Daljit Singh Cheema were also present.
The elderly Badal is survived by Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter Parneet Kaur and grandchildren. He lost his life-partner, Surinder Kaur, in 2011.The elderly Badal entered politics at the age of 20 when he got elected as the sarpanch of Badal in 1947, the village that remained his native place despite being elected as the Chief Minister five times.
And for the villagers the veteran leader was their sarpanch till he breathed his last.Scores of dignitaries from all political spectrum and tens of thousands of supporters flooded his native place to pay homage.
Under the helm of senior Badal, SAD made history in 1997 by becoming the first non-Congress party to complete its first full term in office since Independence.It repeated its feat in 2007 and 2012 in alliance with the BJP.
Earlier, BJP national President J.P. Nadda, Union Ministers Hardeep Puri and Som Parkash, Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Ministers Bhagwant Mann and Ashok Gehlot, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, National Congress leader Omar Abdullah, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, former union minister Praful Patel, among others, attended the cremation.
A day before the cremation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Chandigarh to pay his last respects to the patriarch where his body was kept for the public to pay their respects.Throughout his political career, Parkash Singh Badal, who had once compared Prime Minister Modi to former US President Abraham Lincoln, had always expressed "immense satisfaction and pride" over the strong and principled stand taken by his party, the SAD, "to save the beleaguered peasantry and the country".
His belief was: "Respect the people and take them seriously, not only those who have voted for the government, but all the people."In his public addresses, he often claimed of spending 17 years in jail for the sake of people of Punjab and their rights.
The Akali Dal-BJP (earlier Jana Sangh) pact was once described as the oldest and strongest alliance in Indian politics. No other coalition has weathered so many political battles since March 27, 1970, when he became the Chief Minister for the first time.
But the Akali Dal snapped its over two-decade long ties and pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in September 2020 after sharp differences emerged over the three controversial farm laws, now repealed.
Parkash Singh Badal's party, which is just six years 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 its 'panthic' ideology to safeguard the interests of Sikhs. It was set up a month after the formation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).