Chandigarh, Punjab: The name of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is doing the rounds as a potential candidate for the post of the Vice-President of India.
Sources in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said the party has not so far received any official communication from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to field Badal as the alliance nominee, but politicians in Punjab have started debating if he would be willing to shift base to Delhi.
Those who think that the five-time Chief Minister of Punjab will not say no, if made an offer, feel so mainly because it will result in a very smooth transfer of power from father to son in Punjab.
If Badal moves to Delhi, SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the heir apparent, will be the natural choice for handing over reigns of the Punjab Cabinet. In fact, there are unconfirmed reports that Sukhbir Badal is hob-knobbing with the NDA leadership to explore the possibility of a role for his father in Delhi.
There is also a talk about how Badal’s name was first considered for the post of the President of the country, but the allies of SAD did not think it would be a good idea to have Sikhs as the President, the Prime Minister and the Army Chief, all at the same time. So Badal’s name was dropped from being a contender for the post of the President to that of the Vice-President. Sukhbir Badal told The Tribune that the media was indulging in kite flying; there was nothing concrete on the issue at this stage. “Recall how everyone repeatedly said during the last term of the SAD-BJP government that Sukhbir would be the Chief Minister next week and I am still the Deputy Chief Minister two years later.” He said the NDA leadership would take a decision in that regard and the SAD, a member of the alliance, would be bound by whatever was decided.
There are many parallels in Indian polity that support the probability of Badal going to the Centre, despite his being an octogenarian. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Chaudhary Devi Lal, former Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Haryana, became the Vice-President and the Deputy Prime Minister of the country. His age and status as one of the tallest leaders in Indian politics make Badal an acceptable face.
However, the perception outside Punjab as Badal being a person who easily succumbs to hardliners can hamper his chances. Badal was a supporter of the 1973 Anandpur Sahib resolution that called for more powers to the states on a federal pattern. People outside Punjab believe that that resolution was the basis of separatism. He is also a signatory to the Amritsar Declaration that was sent to the UN Secretary General demanding a separate nation state for the Sikhs. Further the burning of the Indian Constitution by Badal during the Punjabi Morcha is brought up time and again by his political detractors, although he regretted that later.
People who know Badal personally say he is a people’s person and loves meeting hundreds every day. In Delhi, he will be confined to a limited public interaction, something that he may not personally like. Surely, Badal may be averse to the idea of sitting home after handing over the power to his son, but he may not be that hesitant to take on new assignments, despite his age.