Son rises in Punjab, Sukhbir Badal becomes deputy chief minister


Amritsar : Sukhbir Singh Badal was Wednesday sworn in as deputy chief minister of Punjab, becoming deputy to his father Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in an event unprecedented in six decades of Indian politics.

Support TwoCircles

The member of parliament from Faridkot was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor S.F. Rodrigues at the Ranjit Avenue grounds here.

The oath-taking ceremony was attended by thousands of activists and supporters of the ruling Akali Dal and alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dressed in a kurta-pyjama, Badal junior took the oath in Punjabi.

This city and many other places across Punjab, from where Akali Dal supporters were ferried to be part of the function that cost over Rs.50 million, saw traffic jams with hundreds of vehicles on the roads.

Sukhbir Singh Badal, who has been the main power centre in Punjab since his father assumed office March 2007, will have to get elected to the assembly within six months to fulfill the constitutional obligation.

A visibly happy Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 83, said it was important to bring in more young blood into the government.

“I hope he (Sukhbir) will be able to take care of his new responsibility and duty well. We already have young blood in the government. It was important to get more young blood in the interest of the state,” Badal senior said.

Sukhbir Singh Badal’s elevation as deputy chief minister is seen as the Akali Dal’s attempt to target the young voters ahead of parliamentary elections, due by April-May.

Badal senior brushed aside any resentment in the BJP over the development. “This is not my decision alone. It was taken by our party (Akali Dal) leadership. We consulted the leadership of the alliance partner on this,” Badal said.

The BJP, which once criticised the Congress for promoting “dynastic politics” of the Gandhi family, did not seem embarrassed as its top leadership, including president Rajnath Singh and prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani’s daughter Pratibha Advani, celebrated Sukhbir Singh Badal’s elevation.

The chief minister said the portfolios of the existing ministers would not be disturbed to give ministerial assignments to Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“Giving portfolios is my discretion… We will decide it in one or two days. The portfolios will come from what I am holding or what (Bikram Singh) Majithia had,” Badal said.

He was referring to Sukhbir Singh Badal’s brother-in-law Majithia, who resigned his cabinet berth last week to make way for him. Majithia had held the information and public relations and public health portfolios.

Later in the day, Sukhbir Singh Badal outlined his vision for the future of the state and said those who did not perform “would have to face the consequences”.

“We have given the government machinery two years to adjust to our new vision and our pace of task accomplishment. Now, those who do not perform to fulfill people’s aspirations or are found to be less than honest should be ready to face the consequences,” he said.

“Accountability would be the key word and I will be the first one to subject myself to the test of accountability,” Badal said in his first statement after swearing-in.

Sukhbir Singh Badal, 46, a sculptor by hobby during his college days, would now be chiselling the future of the state. He is also the president of the Akali Dal, a mantle he assumed from his father over a year ago.

It is not that Badal junior has any dearth of experience. A three-time Lok Sabha MP from Punjab, he was minister of state for industries in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998-99. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2001.

He has been talking about bringing “corporate culture” in the Akali Dal – a traditional party identified with grey flowing beards of its senior leaders – and of placing Punjab in the top league among states.

Married to Harsimrat Kaur, Sukhbir has three children who study in New Delhi.

Badal junior did his honours and master’s degree in economics from the Panjab University in Chandigarh before completing his business management degree from the California State University in Los Angeles.

Besides being a high-profile politician and hailing from the most prominent political family of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal has business and agricultural interests. He owns Orbit Resorts in Gurgaon, a five-star property currently run by a leading international hotel chain.