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How Sukhbir Badal changed the Akali face

india Updated: Mar 08, 2012 02:46 IST
Manpreet Randhawa

In 2009, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal decided to hold a party conclave at a five-star hotel in Shimla. He reportedly wanted all party MPs and MLAs to first enjoy the scenic beauty of the hill station before brainstorming on how to galvanise the party.

Political opponents criticised the move as "totally wasteful" and critics were quick to predict the downfall of the party. Keeping in tradition with the 90-year-old party of the Akali Jathedars (leaders of a clergy), the conclave should have been held in a gurdwara or any other modest place, they said.

But the deputy chief minister was unfazed. “If we have to take on the contemporary political parties, we need to change our strategy and mindset,” Sukhbir had said. “We have done nothing wrong by holding the conclave in Shimla.”

A US-educated management expert, Sukhbir has for long been identified as a master political strategist. Under his guidance, the SAD managed to emerge victorious in the 2007 assembly polls. In 2008, he became the youngest president of the party. He was only 45.

On Wednesday, when the alliance pulled off a victory against all odds — it created history by becoming the first coalition government to beat anti-incumbency and return to power in the state — Sukhbir proved that 2007 was no fluke.

Analysts have given Sukhbir much of the credit for orchestrating the party’s poll campaign and winning strategy.

To garner non-Sikh votes, Sukhbir fielded 11 Hindus, 10 of whom won. The welfare schemes launched by the SAD-BJP government, including the popular atta-dal scheme under which 17 lakh families get subsidised wheat and pulses, drew Dalits to the SAD-BJP fold.

Sukhbir pushed the government to introduce several administrative reforms. The Right To Service Act, which ensures time-bound delivery of public services to the people, was introduced by him in 2011.

He also ushered in mega projects under the Public Private Participation format, not worrying about finances. If the idea is good and in the welfare of the people, money will automatically flow, he believed.

Punjab assembly dissolved

Punjab governor Shivraj Patil has dissolved the 117-member state Assembly following a

recommendation from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Official sources said that the notification constituting

the 14th state Assembly is expected to be issued by this weekend as the new house has to be constituted before March 14. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) created history in the state by becoming the first party ever to retain power in alliance with the BJP with an improved tally of 68 seats against 67 which the two parties secured five years back in 2007. The Congress won only 46 seats.

pti, chandigarh