People throng SAD office to pay homage to Parkash Singh Badal; PM pays floral tributes

Chandigarh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid floral tributes to Parkash Singh Badal at the Shiromani Akali Dal office here as scores of people and political leaders assembled to pay homage to the five-time Punjab chief minister.

Badal had not been keeping well and was admitted to the Fortis Hospital in Mohali near here on April 16 after he complained of uneasiness in breathing. He died on Tuesday aged 95.

The Punjab government has declared a holiday on Thursday as a mark of respect to the former chief minister. According to an official order, all government offices, departments, boards, corporations and educational institutions in the state will remain shut on Thursday.

The central government has already announced two days of state mourning on April 26 and 27 across India as a mark of respect to the former chief minister.

The mortal remains of the SAD patriarch, who straddled Punjab politics for over seven decades, were brought to the party head office here in an ambulance.

Former Haryana chief minister O P Chautala struggled to hold back tears as he paid his last respects to the SAD patriarch. The Chautalas and the Badals, the two powerful political families in Haryana and Punjab, have long-standing ties as Badal was a close friend of former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal.

After arriving in Chandigarh, Modi reached the SAD office accompanied by Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

He laid a wreath on the mortal remains of Badal and then sat beside SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. The prime minister was seen holding the hands of Sukhbir Singh Badal, expressing grief over the passing away of the SAD chief’s father.

Modi stayed at the SAD office for a few minutes.

Former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Patiala MP Parneet Kaur who is the wife of Amarinder Singh also paid homage to the departed soul. Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, grandson Anantvir Singh Badal, Bikram Singh Majithia, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Harjinder Singh Dhami and BSP leader Jasvir Singh Garhi were also present at the SAD head office.

Union Minister Som Parkash and former minister Balbir Singh Sidhu expressed their condolence to Badal’s son and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal at the private hospital where the former Punjab chief minister breathed his last. Former minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of senior Badal, was also present.

Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Haryana Assembly Speaker Gian Chand Gupta and Congress leader Lal Singh were among the leaders who reached the SAD office to pay their floral tributes.

Grief-stricken party supporters stood in queues at the SAD headquarters to have a glimpse of their leader for the last time. The mortal remains of the SAD patriarch will be kept at the party head office here for people to pay their tributes to the departed soul.

The mortal remains will be taken to the former chief minister’s native village Badal in Muktsar later on Wednesday via Rajpura, Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Rampura Phul, and Bathinda. The cremation will take place at Badal village at 1 pm on Thursday, a party leader said.

Senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhundar said Badal’s death was the biggest loss for the country.

The grand old man of Punjab politics first became chief minister in 1970, heading a coalition government that did not complete its term. He was also the chief minister in 1977-80, 1997-2002, 2007-12 and 2012-2017.

Born on December 8, 1927, in Abul Khurana near Malout, Badal graduated from Forman Christian College in Lahore. His first political posts were the sarpanch of Badal village and the chairman of the block samiti.

He entered the state assembly from Malout in 1957 as a Congress nominee. In 1969, he won the Gidderbaha assembly seat on the SAD ticket. When Gurnam Singh, the then chief minister, defected to the Congress in 1970, the SAD regrouped and formed government with the support of the Jana Sangh.

Badal became the youngest chief minister in the country. However, the coalition government lasted a little more than a year. In 2017, when he ended his last stint as chief minister, he was among the oldest to have held that post.

Badal was re-elected in the 1972 elections, but as the SAD could not form government, he became the leader of the Opposition. He was chief minister for 15 months in 1970-71 and for 32 months in 1977-1980.

During the 1977 elections, he again won from the Gidderbaha constituency and became the chief minister of the SAD-Janata Party government. He was again elected to the state assembly in June 1980 and September 1985 elections from the Gidderbaha assembly constituency.

Badal, after shifting to the Lambi constituency, was elected legislator in 1997 and became the chief minister on February 12 that year as the leader of the SAD-BJP government.

During this tenure, his government took the decision of providing free electricity and waiving land revenue for farmers. Badal was re-elected from the Lambi seat in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.

In 1967, he lost the Gidderbaha seat to Congress’ Harcharan Singh Brar by a margin of just 57 votes. This was his first electoral loss. The second came last year when lost to AAP candidate Gurmeet Singh Khuddian.