Manpreet Badal ploughs a lonely furrow

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : When the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) was floated in March last year, there were expectations that its leader and former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal would provide the third alternative in the state’s politics.

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Just 16 months later, the PPP and its leader have been deserted by some top leaders who were amongst the party’s founders.

Although the party set out to bring about change in the political thought and culture of Punjab, the only change it has really managed has been within its own ranks. It now appears to be the image of a disintegrating party.

Manpreet Badal, nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and cousin of Shiromani Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, now ploughs a lonely furrow within his party.

Manpreet Badal had quit his uncle’s government October 2010 and later the Akali Dal owing to serious ideological differences over subsidies and governance.

A number of leaders who have chosen to leave the PPP in recent months say that they are disgruntled with the “individualistic and autocratic” functioning of Manpreet Badal, who was reportedly unable to involve others in party affairs.

Amongst the latest to leave the party are former legislators Didar Singh Bhatti and Bir Devinder Singh, the latter also a former deputy speaker of the Punjab assembly.

Bhatti rejoined the Akali Dal last week after quitting the PPP. Bir Devinder, chief spokesman of the PPP, wrote a scathing two-page resignation letter.

“My dear Manpreet, if you recall, I politely declined your offer to contest from Mohali on the PPP ticket. I was reluctant to contest… I contested the election with my own modest resources in the absence of even logistic support from the party. I did not even ask for a single penny from the PPP. I need not mention that we all lost the elections, and you lost from both places you contested… Under the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to continue as such after your remarkable discovery pertaining to my shelf life and scathing and insalubrious censure. You are free to appoint any other person in my place but kindly make sure of his shelf life, so he can be durable and stay parked on your shelf.”

The PPP had failed to win any seat in the January assembly election. In fact, Manpreet Badal lost both the assembly seats that he contested. He had been a four-time legislator from Gidderbaha.

With a humiliating performance in the assembly elections, the defections started early.

Some PPP founders, including Manpreet Badal’s cousin and former legislator Jagbir Singh Brar, had earlier left the party. Former legislators Charanjit Channi, Ajit Singh and Kushaldeep Dhillon also left. While some joined the Congress, others went back to the Akali Dal.

Former Rajya Sabha MP Varinder Bajwa too quit the PPP and rejoined the Akali Dal. Manpreet Badal’s close aide Charanjit Singh Brar left the PPP in a huff a few months ago and joined the Akali Dal. He is now a close associate of Sukhbir Badal.

However, Manpreet Badal soldiers on.

“Only professional politicians have left. There is no question of (the PPP) disintegrating,” Manpreet Badal told the media recently.

What must cause some concern, though, is this little detail – while all the big names have left the party, no new leaders or workers are joining it.

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