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Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal dies at 95

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Chandigarh: Five-time former Punjab chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, known for his winsome humility and strong rural roots, died on Tuesday. He was 95.

Badal, who had not been keeping well for sometime, was admitted to Mohali’s Fortis Hospital over a week ago after he complained of uneasiness in breathing.

“Mr Badal passed away at around 8 pm,” hospital Director Abhijeet Singh told PTI over the phone.

The grand old man of Punjab politics first became chief minister in 1970, heading a coalition government that did not complete its term. He was also the chief minister in 1977-80, 1997-2002, 2007-12 and 2012-2017.

At 94, Badal last year became the country’s oldest candidate to fight a state election when he entered the electoral battle for the 13th time but could not save his pocket borough of Lambi in Muktsar district, only second defeat in a political career spanning more than seven decades.

During the 2022 state polls, the SAD patriarch had said he wanted to serve people till his last breath.

His last rites will take place Thursday afternoon at his native village Badal in Lambi in Muktsar.

The central government announced two days of state mourning on April 26 and 27 across India as a mark of respect to the former chief minister.

On the days of mourning, the national flag will be flown at half mast and there will be no official entertainment, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a communication to all states.

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several central ministers and chief ministers and leaders cutting across party lines condoled his demise and hailed his immense contributions to the state as well as the country.

President Murmu said Badal was one of the tallest political stalwarts since independence. “Though his exemplary career in public service was largely confined to Punjab, he was respected across the country. His demise leaves a void. My heartfelt condolences to his family and admirers,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan tweeted.

Prime Minister Modi described his demise as a “personal loss” and said he was a colossal figure of Indian politics and a remarkable statesman who contributed greatly to the nation.

Badal worked tirelessly for the progress of Punjab and anchored the state through critical times, the prime minister said. “Parkash Singh Badal’s passing away is a personal loss for me. I have interacted closely with him for many decades and learnt so much from him.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Badal played a significant role in Punjab’s politics for decades and made several noteworthy contributions towards the welfare of farmers and other weaker sections of the society. “Badal Sahab was the son of soil who remained connected to his roots, all his life. I fondly remember my interactions with him on several issues,” he added.

As the news of his demise broke, a large crowd of party workers and well-wishers gathered outside the hospital. Many leaders cutting across party lines also reached there to offer their condolences to the bereaved family.

Some party workers said Badal was not a politician but a statesman who was loved and respected by all, including his political rivals.

In the last stage of his career, Badal handed over the reins of the SAD to son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also became the deputy chief minister under him.

Badal’s wife Surinder Kaur Badal died of cancer in 2011. They had two children – Sukhbir Singh Badal, the heir to his political legacy, and Parneet Kaur, who is married to former minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon.

SAD chief Sukhbir Badal’s wife is Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Born on December 8, 1927 in Abul Khurana near Malout, Parkash Singh Badal graduated from the Forman Christian College, Lahore. His political journey began in 1947 when he became the ‘Sarpanch’ (village head) of Badal village, then in Bathinda district. Thereafter, he became the chairman of the block samiti.

He became an MLA for the first time in 1957 when he was elected to the Punjab assembly from Malout constituency as a Congress member. He then moved to the Gidderbaha assembly seat from where he was elected as an MLA on a SAD ticket during the 1969 mid-term poll.

When Gurnam Singh, the then chief minister, defected to the Congress, the SAD members regrouped themselves overnight and chose Badal as their leader on March 27, 1970 and formed a government with the support of the Jan Sangh.

But owing to constant squabbles and infighting, he advised the governor on June 13, 1971 to dissolve the Assembly.

Badal was re-elected in the 1972 elections, but as the SAD could not form a government, he became the leader of the Opposition.

Badal was chief minister for 15 months in 1970-71 and for 32 months in 1977-1980.

During the 1977 elections, he again won from the Gidderbaha constituency and became the chief minister of the SAD-Janata Party government.

He was again elected to the state assembly in June 1980 and September 1985 elections from Gidderbaha assembly constituency.

Badal courted arrest during the Operation Bluestar in June 1984 when the Army had entered the Golden Temple complex at Amritsar to flush out militants.

He refused to become the deputy chief minister under Surjit Singh Barnala after the 1985 elections and later quit the party as the rift widened. In 1986, Badal formed Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).

Badal after shifting to Lambi constituency was elected legislator in 1997 and became the chief minister on February 12 that year as the leader of the SAD-BJP government.

In this tenure, his government took the decision of providing free electricity and waiving land revenue for farmers. Badal was re-elected from Lambi seat in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.

In 1967, he lost the Gidderbaha seat to Congress’ Harcharan Singh Brar by a margin of just 57 votes. This was his first electoral loss. The second came last year.

Badal’s governments focused on farmers. One key decision was introducing free electricity for agriculture.

His party broke off ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party over the farmers’ agitation against the Centre new agri laws in 2020. He also returned the Padma Vibhushan award he received in 2015.

The grand old man of Punjab politics has not been keeping well for the past few years. He was hospitalised in June last year following complaints related to gastritis and bronchial asthma.

The Fortis Hospital in its bulletin issued on Tuesday evening said, “Despite appropriate medical management S Parkash Singh Badal succumbed to his illness. Fortis Hospital Mohali deeply condoles the death of S Parkash Singh Badal.”

SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema said the mortal remains of Badal will be brought to the party head office here on Wednesday morning at 10 am where party workers and the public can pay their last respects. At 12 pm, the mortal remains will be taken to his native Badal village via Rajpura, Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Rampura Phul, Bathinda and Badal village. Enroute too people can pay their last respects, said Cheema.

The cremation will take place at 1 pm on Thursday.


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