Punjab’s blogger finance minister hits cyber fame

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : Many finance ministers around the world may appear icy and unapproachable, but not Punjab’s 40-something Manpreet Singh Badal who is blogging his way into cyber popularity and even inviting suggestions for the budget he will present next week.

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Manpreet, who turns 47 this month, is scoring several hits every day on his personal blog (www.manpreetbadal.wordpress.com). The blog launched in January is nearing the 10,000-hits mark.

the minister recently asked people to send suggestions for Punjab’s delayed budget, which he will present next week, and gave them a list of do’s and don’ts for sending him tips on the blog – that they should be only about the state, should be limited to 200 words and, most importantly, implementable.

Manpreet, an honours graduate from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and a bar-at-law from London who also studied in Dehradun’s famous Doon School, is the nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Despite the Badal surname attached to him, Manpreet, a four-time Akali Dal legislator from the Gidderbaha assembly constituency, has created a name for himself as a suave and practical politician whose views on issues like subsidies are at variance with the political line of his party and its ageing leaders.

Manpreet is clear about what he wants from the blog, which he says is a personal forum.

“I am very liberal in allowing comments on this blog. However, this is a personal forum. I would welcome criticism of my policies and thoughts but this forum is not meant to criticise others. Secondly, the comments should preferably be about the blog and blog-related issues,” Manpreet, who does not carry the security detail as his other ministerial colleagues and loves to drive his Honda-CRV SUV himself, writes on his blog.

The minister adds: “The blog is getting attention from various quarters. Despite the lack of any attempt to publicise the blog or attract traffic, people have stumbled upon the blog and commented on it.

“I can now confidently state that the response to the blog has been beyond my initial expectations. There have been some suggestions on improving this blog and adding some more features. I will incorporate them.”

From Canada to China, bloggers from all over the world and his own state are writing in.

These include a teacher from a rural college in Kapurthala district, who did not agree with the Akali opposition to the India-US nuclear deal, and a Punjabi NRI in New Zealand who wants him to join Facebook. This blogger has even created a group, ‘Badals of Punjab’, on www.facebook.com.

For the Akali Dal, which was formed in 1920 and claims to be the second oldest in the country after the Congress and is perceived to be a party of religious conservatives, having a blogger finance minister may be at odds with its image.

But Manpreet is charting his own path and blogging away merrily.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])