Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s public opprobrium of Punjab’s most powerful minister Bikramjit Majithia at the NRI conference here this week has left Majithia vulnerable. This came after the recent Congress demand for his sacking from the Cabinet since the minister was caught on camera purportedly hurling expletives at a senior Congress legislator on the floor of the Assembly.
While the Congress campaign screening digitally Majithia’s “expletives” had merely slowed down, the bombshell from the Chief Minister has halted the young minister’s recovery as a respectable political leader. The CM’s comment has also emboldened Majithia baiters within the Badal family, Akali Dal, coalition partner BJP and the Congress against, what they call, the minister’s attempt to “usurp power both through official channels and anti-social elements”.
The CM had said that the young minister should remember that Badal and his senior party colleagues had gone to jail for political struggles to qualify for enjoying power, but Majithia had power on a platter and was further trying to usurp the power. A couple of days later, Badal tried to undo the damage by saying, “It was a comment made in a lighter vein.” Badal also asserted that Majithia’s work during the election and the party was praiseworthy. Political commentators and Congress leaders say Badal retraced his statement under pressure from Majithia’s sister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, party MP and wife of Badal’s son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Majithia won the confidence of Badal loyalists when the young man tried to take on the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab, browbeating the entire Badal family between 2002 and 2007 through slapping corruption cases.
Political observers say Badal, whose silence speaks more than his words, made the precision strike to restore confidence amongst traditional old guards, establish his own authority ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, balance power equations within the family and send a signal to the “anti-social” Majithia followers to be cautious. Bureaucracy, uneasy electorate, NRIs and businessmen have also got the message as to who matters the most. Those familiar with Badal’s style of functioning say the Badal barb might have been aimed at neutralising the Congress campaign against the government after Majithia’s indiscretion was caught on camera and reports of youth Akalis misusing power in the name of Majithia to the extent that they have allegedly attacked even policemen. Political commentator Baljit Balli says, “Badal always chooses his time and place of fight and always emerges stronger from every crisis. In this case also the young minister will slowly see himself weakened amongst those who matter.” Badal’s public attack on somebody is very rare and his similar attacks have historically damaged party stalwarts like Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former Chief Minister Surjeet Singh Barnala and former Shiromani Gudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Jagdev Singh Talwandi. Balli also says a barb at Majithia, who has usurped power in Majha area around Amritsar, at the cost of Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Partap Kairon will create a balance of power within the family. Many time Congress MLA and former MP Rana Gurjeet, who faced Majithia’s expletives in the Assembly, said, “Badal is a senior politician and has rightly cut Majithia to size to restore confidence amongst the people of the state for his own party.”
Many say a convent educated champion biker and handsome Sardar who stands six feet three inches tall, Majithia will remain a family favourite as his loyalty to the Badal family is not questionable and Congress attacks on Majithia provide a buffer to Badal son Sukhbir aspiring to take over reins from the patriarch.