Even though Sukhbir Singh Badal will lead the campaign for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the high-octane Punjab assembly elections, the party is still counting heavily on the crowd-pulling charisma of its patriarch Parkash Singh Badal who turned 94 on Wednesday.
With the 2022 elections being crucial for the party, which was voted out last time, and had to part ways with the BJP recently, party strategists are relying on the senior Badal who despite his age continues to hold sway over the party cadre. If the tweet of his son Sukhbir was any indication, the senior Badal continued to hold a critical place in party’s electoral fight.
“In his nineties and he still amazes me with his childlike enthusiasm and energy. His wisdom is unmatched and his experience unparalleled. I see the whole of Punjab in him whereas he sees Punjab in all of us. He is not just mine – Parkash Punjab Da!!’’ tweeted Sukhbir.
Though the party is yet to officially announce candidate for Lambi seat from where Parkash Sigh Badal has been contesting since 1957 but insiders did not rule out his repeat candidature depending on what he would decide. “He is a vote catcher for the party and holds enormous sway on the cadre. Sukhbir maybe at the helm but everyone knows that the patriarch and his campaign will make a crucial difference to party’s fortunes in the forthcoming elections,” said a leader.
Though the senior Badal has stayed away from public glare in view of the pandemic since 2020, but he started addressing public meetings since October this year. “The public meeting drew a huge response and was a clear indicator that he still has got some charisma to draw crowds,” commented a leader. The party has already finalised most of the candidates and sources in the party said that the senior Badal was involved in the process of ticket selection despite his old age.
Sources said even for the tie-up with the Mayawati’s BSP, the senior Badal had played an important role. In fact, the party had even released a video of the patriarch talking to the BSP supremo after the pact was sealed, as a strong optics.
After SAD was ousted from power in 2017, Parkash Badal had to a large extent restrict his political activities but in 2019 parliamentary polls he joined the party campaign and was covering candidate of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Bathinda parliamentary seat.
Despite not making many public appearances, including not attending Vidhan Sabha sessions, Badal has been active in his area and would maintain a connect with electors by attending functions and other rituals.