Badal (Punjab), Jan 30 (IANS) Located in a government school in Badal village of Lambi assembly seat in Punjab, polling booth No.106 may be a nondescript place but it turned out to be the battleground for the politically feuding first family of Punjab politics — the Badals.
As day broke over this village Monday morning, the polling booth became the most important address of Punjab politics as the state’s 117 assembly seats went for voting.
Listed among the names of voters in this polling station was Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal who is also the deputy chief minister, Bathinda MP and Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Badal, chief minister’s nephew and People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Singh Badal, chief minister’s younger brother and PPP candidate Gurdas Badal and their cousin and Congress candidate Maheshinder Singh Badal.
Parkash Singh Badal, 84, is facing his toughest political test as he is locked in a bitter triangular contest with his younger brother Gurdas Badal, 81, of the PPP and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal, 50, of the Congress from the Lambi seat.
Badal senior, who has represented this seat earlier, had managed to win against Maheshinder Badal by just over 9,000 votes in the February 2007 assembly polls.
The Badals, who were once a united family, have now been politically divided among the Akali Dal, Congress and the PPP. The political feud within the family has left the simple villagers of Badal village confused.
‘It is very difficult for voters of Badal to decide which one to vote for. Whatever the outcome of the poll here, a Badal will win and a Badal will lose,’ Manga Singh, a villager, said outside the polling station.
The chief minister, who normally used to be the first voter in the village in earlier elections, took his time to come out of his sprawling mansion in the village to cast his vote.
The first voter from the village was a youth, Bharpur Singh. ‘I am happy to be the first voter this time. Earlier Badal Sahib used to be the first one. For us, all the Badals are equal and we respect them,’ he said after casting his vote at 8 am.
Both the Badal brothers – Parkash and Gurdas – are known as ‘Pash’ and ‘Dass’ among the villagers.
Despite the bitter contest among the three Badals, each one has refrained from making personal attack against the others during campaigning.
‘Most villagers are upset that politics has divided the Badal family. It is not good for the village. We feel sad that the family is divided,’ another villager said.
Among the Badal clan, former finance minister and estranged nephew of the chief minister, Manpreet Badal was the first one to cast his vote at around 8.30 am. He is, otherwise, contesting from the Gidderbaha and Maur assembly seats on the PPP ticket. Maheshinder Badal was the next one to cast his vote from the family a little while later.
Dressed in a white kurta pajama and a green-colour half-jacket, Manpreet flashed the victory sign after casting his vote here.
‘We are sure that we will do very, very well. The change is in the air, it is a change for the better. There is an acute sense of embarrassment among people that Punjab has been left behind,’ he said after casting his vote.
Parkash Singh Badal arrived at the same booth around 10.30 a.m. accompanied by his son Sukhbir and daughter-in-law Harsimrat.
‘I am very confident of winning from here and becoming the chief minister again,’ a visibly happy Parkash Singh Badal said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)