Observers see political son-rise, while the heir says it's only a new dawn. On the eve of Independence Day, Arjun Badal, son of the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) president, Manpreet Singh Badal, opened his social initiative, Subera.
An acronym of the first two letters of the three main rivers of Punjab (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi), Subera is a non-government organisation that will work for the betterment of young people in the state through various programmes. "My beginning is an attempt to cure Punjab of some of its ills," said Arjun.
It's Manpreet preparing to contest the next Lok Sabha election from Bathinda against his sister-in-law, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, say political observers. Fighting a tough battle after his party drew a blank in the latest assembly elections, the PPP leader is motivated to give a reply to the ruling family of his estranged cousin and uncle. His son's initiative is construed to rival the Nanhi Chhaan mission of Harsimrat Kaur, wife of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
On Tuesday, Arjun Badal, 17, opened his latest campaign in Bathinda. Required to carry the burden of a political legacy, he has a long way to go before inherits the mantle of his father and his uncle. Arjun is president of Subera, while his cousin, Aazam Singh Jauhal (son of his maternal uncle, Jaijeet Singh Jauhal), is general secretary. Arjun is on a break from studies in the US. In the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, he had campaigned vigorously for his father's PPP.
Manpreet declined to call it a political debut of his son. "Please don't compare it with Nanhi Chhaan," he said in reply to a question. "I don't see any active political role for Arjun as long as he is a student. He wants to work for the betterment of the youth, which is a social, not a political initiative.
Arjun addressed the media at Teachers' Home here on Tuesday. "We Indians are good complainers but reluctant reformers," he said. "We expect others to fight our battles. World over, civil society is in reform. Patriotism and honesty runs in my blood. As a young Punjabi, I was appalled during the Jago Punjab Yatra to see the pitiable condition of the state's youngsters. My beginning is an attempt to cure Punjab of some of its ills."
He cited some reports suggesting that more than two-third of the young population in Punjab's villages was hooked to drugs. "The problem as well as the inaction are perturbing," he said. "Subera will hold camps for creating awareness against drug addiction and highlighting rehabilitation programmes for addicts. It will build clubs to promote sport, social interaction, theatre, and environment protection. Our Child for Child programme will sensitise children born in privileged families to the disparities around them, and motivate them to help people who are less fortunate."