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The House Of Badals

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
source: WSN-Opinion-The House of Badals

The House of Badals

Sach Kanwal Singh - World Sikh News

Regional party satraps in India are becoming some kind of feudal political landlords who first succeed in playing up regional aspirations and then gradually get a vice like grip on the party, preferring to run it like a family owned business.

Prakash Singh Badal-Sukhbir Singh Badal in Punjab, Mulayam Singh Yadav-Akhilesh Yadav-Dimple Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Karunanidhi-Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Bal Thackeray-Udhaav Thackeray in Maharashtra, Chautalas in Haryana or the Abdullahs in Kashmir. Democratic norms are mostly seen being violated rather than observed, and a passing over of the baton to the son or daughter is taken for granted.

Trigger a private conversation with any of the Akali Dal leaders and you are likely to listen to the same complaint. But not one leader has the guts to come out in the open and question the Badal family's grip on the party. Top party forums like the Political Affairs Committee have been rendered useless, decisions are taken behind closed doors, meetings are mostly used to express and reiterate continued loyalty to senior or junior Badal and then end after giving all rights to Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Any out of the way remark or even expression of a wish to put up something for debate is taken as a measure of some kind of aspiration and is dealt with sternly. The Dhindsas, the Brahampuras have all been taken care of. Those who think of fighting the system also gradually fall pray to similar weaknesses.

And no one had any hope that the Barnalas will be any different, and they haven't turned out to be. Surprisingly, most people in Punjab have started taking it for granted now that a son or daughter of an Akali leader will be some how "accommodated".

In a recent interview of Harsimrat Kaur Badal aired on Lok Sabha television, she was happily prattling about how when her father-in-law sent her to Parliament, she did not even know how the legislative house functioned and was a "babe in the woods" in her own words. Well, all marks to Harsimrat for being candid but what does it say about the senior Badal who employs such wonderful ways for finding the right candidate to be sent to Parliament to take care of Punjab's interests.

The Indian Express recently interviewed Shahid Siddiqui, general secretary of the Bahujan Samaj Party, who, the newspaper claimed, spoke about "the unspeakable" and questioned his leader Mayawati. All that Shahid Siddiqui wanted to say was that there’s neither debate nor discussion in regional parties "because each is now run by individuals and their families rather than institutions."

<table style="border-width: 0px; border-collapse: collapse;" id="AutoNumber19" width="55%" align="left" border="1" bordercolor="#111111" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="border: medium none ;" width="96%" bgcolor="#ffffcc" valign="top">There is no transparency in the way decisions are taken and the party shuns any serious discussion in the media. Interviews of the Badals are mostly answers scribbled by their hired scribes to emailed questionnaires while TV appearances are either on a safe channel, preferably one called PTC, or with a safe interviewer. On most national issues, Akali Dal leaders normally do not have a view or ask the BJP if it has a view that the Akalis can adopt.

</td><td style="border: medium none ;" width="4%">
</td></tr></tbody></table>Next day, Mayawati threw her out of the party. The fate of anyone trying to talk about lack of democratic tradition in the Akali Dal will be no different. No wonder, the party has not once discussed the case in which it has been caught red handed with two Constitutions instead of one. One version of the Constitution that proves it a "secular" party was meant for the Election Commission of India while the second version was meant for Chief Election Commissioner for Gurdwara elections.

Shahid Siddiqui minced no words in saying that “decisions are taken somewhere else." He said people like Bal Thackeray, Prakash Karat who have not been to Parliament, and those like Mayawati and Chandrababu Naidu who are not MPs themselves, control party MPs. Well, so does Sukhbir Singh Badal. They tell MPs what to say and what not to.

You receive orders from the top. No discussions take place. In these meetings, Mayawati comes, speaks, and goes away. Senior leaders stand up and shout slogans. This was Shahid Siddiqui about Mayawati. Does anyone seriously think it is any different in Akali Dal core group meetings?

When was the last time the Akali Dal actually discussed why it has moved so far away from the panthic agenda? Was it the party's decision to ask the government to allow the conclave of Ashutosh Maharaj in Ludhiana? Did the aprty advise the government not to allow the conclave?

When was the issue of raising a memorial to the martyrs of Operation Bluestar discussed at the level of the Akali Dal? When did circle jathedars meet to take a view on it? When was the PAC apprised of the view of the circle jathedars after such a meeting?

Who took the decision not to raise the matter of 25th anniversary of 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Parliament? If Tarlochan Singh had moved a resolution in Parliament, what had stopped Akali Dal from moving a Resolution? Why has the Akali Dal not moved a Resolution so far in Parliament condemning the murder of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002? Why are we not aware of the Akali Dal's stance on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Meghalaya and elsewhere?

Siddiqui was not hesitant to name Akali Dal also among the parties that have been reduced into family parties. It is time these family enterprises understood that the viability of the party will remain only as long as it stays with the agenda.
There is no transparency in the way decisions are taken and the parties shun any serious discussion in the media. Interviews of Prakash Singh Badal or Sukhbir Singh Badal are mostly answers scribbled by their hired scribes to emailed questionnaires. Their TV appearances are either on a safe channel, preferably one called the PTC, or with a safe interviewer. On most national issues, Akali Dal leaders normally do not have a view or ask the BJP if it has a view that the Akalis can adopt.

Party bosses take decisions on national issues based on their personal interests, that of their family or of their financiers. Even in parties like the Congress, BJP and the Left, though members seldom speak their mind to the leader, there is still a system, some lingering remnants of the old frameworks of debate but in regional parties, there is little hope of any corrective.

Sikh groups across the world had suavely articulated a position against the Indo-US nuclear treaty but when the Akali Dal was to oppose the treaty, it simply borrowed the BJP line, hook and sinker. No wonder, it cut a sorry figure in Punjab. When it came to Gujarat riots, the Sikh voice was not heard all over the country because the Akalis were too hesitant to criticize Narendra Modi.

If the Akali Dal does not push for 1984 massacre justice, it is also because one of the names involved, that of Indian Minister Kamal Nath, is very evry close family chum of the Badals. Who is not aware of the family ties of Kamal Nath’s wife with a leading woman family member of the Badals?

That’s the problem with being a party of a family. Rest of the Akalis are trying to become some sort of extended family members, but they must understand that unlike core committees, the Badal family core can only include a Prakash and a Sukhbir. At least till Sukhbir’s son grows up. Till then, they have a lot of time to either decide to call a spade a spade or suffer insults heaped by a ****** shovel from the House of Badals.

16 December 2009


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