Sukhbir Singh Badal
It was clear from the day Sukhbir Singh Badal entered politics that he is the heir apparent, despite his father, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, having a soft corner for his cousin, Manpreet Badal. While he did his schooling at Lawrence School, Sanawar, Sukhbir did his graduation and post-graduation in Economics from Panjab University. He later went to the United States for further studies.
Although he remained a three-time Lok Sabha member from Punjab and was even union minister of state for industries during the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, Sukhbir showed real interest in state politics only during the run-up to the 2007 Assembly elections, when he took control of the party’s poll campaign, getting the rest to follow his strategy.
In January last year, Sukhbir was made Deputy Chief Minister, although he was not an MLA then. Since he was unable to get elected within the stipulated six months, he was forced to quit. He was later anointed Deputy CM again after his victory in a bypoll.
Sukhbir has followed the Akali politics of appeasement of farmers and jathedars. He was instrumental in introducing Punjabi as a compulsory subject for students up to Class X. This, and his order on compulsory public signboards in Punjabi, did not go down too well with a large section of society, though it was welcomed by the Sikh clergy.
But Sukhbir also deserves credit for some visionary projects which reflect his modern thinking. He set into motion at least three major power projects, and paid special attention to development of infrastructure including roads. He also introduced reforms to cut down on the red tape, removing unnecessary hurdles like submission of affidavits for every government work.
An alumnus of Doon School, Manpreet Badal did his graduation from St Stephens College in Delhi, following it up with a law degree from London. He is known to pepper his conversations with Urdu couplets, and often quotes military historians to make his point.
He admits he was highly influenced by Marxist ideology during his youth. Maybe that explains the note that his office usually sent to organisers during any function to which he was invited: “No extra expenditure should be made for me and other leaders. No money should be spent on garlands, bouquets, momentoes and even lunch.” It is not unusual to see him drive his own vehicle, with only an escort vehicle following him.
Standing tall at about 6’4”, Manpreet prefers to avoid public glare. In 1994, his uncle, Parkash Singh Badal, persuaded him to return from London and contest the bypoll for the Gidderbaha Assembly constituency. Since then, he has won all the subsequent elections from the constituency, increasing his victory margin each time. But while he has nursed his constituency well, he has not done much to extend his base elsewhere in the state.
Known to be a favourite of his uncle, Manpreet often courted controversies with his statements and actions. On several occasions, he has even spoken against the party’s policies, particularly on the issue of subsidies. As Finance Minister, he recently rejected a proposal to hike the pay and perks of MLAs as well as the Chief Minister, and also objected to foreign trips by Speaker and some other legislators.
The fact that he did not quite see eye to eye with his cousin, Sukhbir Singh Badal, was well known. Manpreet himself admitted that they had never sat together to discuss any issue. It was only a matter of time before they publicly confronted each other.