Powerful Badal family faces challenge of a lifetime

Union minister and Akali Dal candidate from Bathinda constituency Harsimrat Kaur Badal during an election roadshow for nomination papers filing ahead of Lok Sabha polls, in Bathinda, on April 26, 2019. Also seen is her husband and SAD president Sukhbir Si

The Badal couples are sweating it out in this election where the outcome will determine not just their popularity but also the future course of the 99-year-old Akali Dal battling difficult times.

Issues of desecration of the holy Sikh book in the past and the drug menace is hounding party candidates.

BJP-ally Akali Dal president and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is taking on his ‘pupil’ from the Ferozepur Lok Sabha seat. The junior Badal’s wife and octogenarian former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s “Bahu” Harsimrat Kaur, a Union minister in Modi’s cabinet, is in the poll fray from not the faraway constituency of Bathinda.

Both the seats are considered as the Akali Dal stronghold, yet Sukhbir and Harsimrat face difficult challenges.

The Ferozepur seat has been with the Akali Dal for the past 25 years. In the last two elections, Sher Singh Ghubhaya won Parliament elections on the Akali Dal ticket. This time though, Ghubhya has switched sides and is contesting against his former party president Sukhbir as a Congress nominee from Ferozepur. Sukhbir junks his presence in the poll fray.

Over a 100-km away in Bathinda, Harsimrat is hoping to be thrice lucky. Bathinda is Badal’s bastion and Kaur has been an MP twice from this constituency. Her challenger is Congress strongman and Amarinder Singh’s confidante Raja Warring.

Firebrand rebel leader Sukhpal Khaira is the candidate of the Punjab Democratic Front, a consortium of six rebel-ridden outfits. Harsimrat’s victory margin in the last general election during the ‘Modi wave’ has diminished considerably.

For Sukhbir and Harsimrat, past laurels may be inconsequential in this election. The blemish of sacrilege is likely to impact the poll outcomes. Incidents of desecration of the Sikh holy book galore during the Akali Dal regime.

The Congress squarely blames the Akali Dal for this. The special investigation team probing the issue is tightening the noose around the senior Badal, it is learnt. Two Sikhs, among hundreds who were sitting peacefully protesting sacrilege, were killed in police firing in 2015. The incident led to a massive outrage against the SAD. 

The Congress campaign is centred around drubbing the Akali Dal for the rise in the drug menace in Punjab. The Akali Dal also faces widespread dissent and defections. Its senior leaders and former ministers have rebelled protesting among other against Sukhbir’s leadership. They have formed another political outfit to counter the Akali Dal. Sukhbir and Harsimrat are putting a brave front citing Amarinder’s failed promises.

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