The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is likely to get only one berth in the union cabinet as BJP’s Narendra Modi takes oath as prime minister on Monday. And the chances of second-time MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of CM Parkash Singh Badal and wife of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, becoming a minister look bleak.
Sources said the senior most Akali MP, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, would get the berth. “If the NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) keeps one berth for SAD, as the BJP has indicated, the CM would give up on Harsimrat to insulate against charge of hoarding power within his clan.
Instead, he would suggest the Brahmpura’s name,” said sources in the SAD. Ties between the SAD and the BJP have been frosty since the coalition won only six of Punjab’s 13 LS seats despite a ‘Modi wave’ in the country.
It got worse due to BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley’s loss in Amritsar. State BJP has effectively put the blame on the SAD for anti-incumbency over illegal sand mining and drug mafia, in which SAD minister and Harsimrat’s brother Bikram Singh Majithia is under fire.
Harsimrat is seen as part of a coterie comprising Majithia and patronised by Sukhbir. A veteran of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and BJP from Amritsar told HT: “There are clear signals to us (BJP-RSS cadres) to keep distance from the Akalis, particularly from those embroiled in the drug and mining mafia.”
Brahmpura, who refused comment, was in Delhi with senior SAD leaders amid NDA’s minor constituents’ worries for space in the Modi cabinet, as the BJP has an absolute majority of its own.
While Harsimrat retained Bathinda by less than 20,000 votes against CM Badal’s nephew and Congress’ Manpreet Badal, Brahmpura defeated Congress’ Harminder Singh Gill by over 1 lakh from Khadoor Sahib. He has been a four-time MLA and state cabinet minister.