Parkash Singh Badal—India’s Mandela? 2023

Parkash Singh Badal, the former chief minister of Punjab and patriarch of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), who died yesterday at the age of 95, was a political figure with many firsts in India.

No other active politician in India today can match Badal’s breadth of political experience — from numerous agitations to an extended period in power; from the leader who built his party into a perennial vote-getter, to the one who witnessed its sudden and complete decline; from the man who led the Sikh electoral and religious politics in Punjab, to the one who was ultimately held responsible for the Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege case.

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Badal as India’s Nelson Mandela. During a speech at the 113th birth anniversary of socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan in the nation’s capital, Modi compared Badal to Nelson Mandela.

“Badal Sahab is sitting here…he is the Nelson Mandela of India,” he declared. “He has been incarcerated for so many years, and for political purposes. What transgression did individuals like Badal Sahab commit? Only that he held divergent political views from those in power.” His remarks were tweeted from the official PMO account.

Badal received both praise and criticism from the Twitterati.

The then-chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, was among those who disputed the claim that Badal had been a political prisoner for 17 years. He demanded that Badal prove his claim. Badal, according to Capt.

Amarinder did not spend more than five years in prison. He claimed that Badal spent only 18 months in prison, and that was during the Emergency, while the remainder of his time was spent in state guesthouses.

It is unknown how long Badal was a political prisoner, but he was jailed for various rallies and agitations.

Badal was imprisoned for several major agitations, including those for a separate Punjabi-speaking state, for autonomy for Punjab, over the river-water dispute with Haryana, for control of Gurdwaras in Delhi, against the Emergency, after the Bluestar Operation, and once for tearing up the Indian Constitution, though he later apologized for his action.

Badal was reportedly in prison during the wedding of his only daughter, Parneet Kaur. Parneet wed Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, the grandson of the former chief minister of Punjab, Partap Singh Kairon. Badal designated his friend and Haryana leader Devi Lal to perform the father’s role at the wedding after he was denied parole.

Badal’s agitational politics not only landed him in prison, but also fueled his extraordinary rise by keeping him closer to the common people. Due to his involvement with the people on the ground, he was India’s youngest chief minister when he began his political career and the eldest when he concluded his career.

He served as chief minister of Punjab five times: 1970 to 1971, 1977 to 1980, 1997 to 2002, and 2007 to 2017 (two consecutive mandates). He was elected MLA nine times and opposition leader three times.

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