The Great Basanti Hype: Manpreet Badal and the Punjab Peoples Party

ppp_logo.jpgCall me a hater, but I am just not that excited. Despite the exuberance of some of my fellow langa(w)riters, I am not convinced.

Dont get me wrong, one of the worst leeches that have siphoned the blood, resources, and morale of the Panth for far too long is the Family Badal.

While state coffers are in ruins and the once mighty land of five rivers finds itself facing ecological (decreasing water table and poisoned through pesticides) and social disasters (drugs and sex-selective abortion, immediately come to mind), the upcoming 2012 elections will be the most expensive show-down in the states history. With the anti-incumbency trend so powerful (nobody ever explores this phenomenon, but it is the travesty of Punjab, where you kick the ruling party out, not too support the opposition, but merely hoping for a slight improvement), most are predicting a Congress victory.

In no small part this will be due to in-fighting within the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. As Parkash Badal has turned the once Panthic Shiromani Akali Dal into a Punjabi party that is really nothing more than his own fiefdom for his patronage networks, public disapproval is on the rise. The people in Punjab are asking if their situation has improved over the past 5 years. Increasingly, they are saying no.

The greatest hope (or hype) about the upcoming elections is seen in Manpreet Badals Punjab Peoples Party. Manpreet (Parkash Badals nephew) was thrown out of the party due to taking openly critical positions. Many youth are energized, as they see the PPP as a step towards a new future. Even in the diaspora, people (including my own father!) are excited, as I havent seen in years.

Still I am not convinced. If support of Manpreet is understood to be a vote against Parkash Badal, I am all for it. I am no fan of the Congress Party, but such is the political realities of Punjab. If Manpreets PPP is able to garner enough votes to be a viable third party in Punjab, I will be excited, not so much for their victory, but the possibility of opening Punjab politics beyond the current 2 party show (the BJP is a sort of sideshow) and will hopefully make alternative grassroots groups possible.

The actual website for the PPP shows no agenda yet, but Manpreets personal blog (seems a rather odd place, for a person pushing for a non-individual focused agenda) does have a constitution. Some of his comments are worthy not so much or the future of the state but just to create outrage and show the people how they have been robbed.

Let us share the details about our properties, our security expenditure, our health expenditure borne by state, our foreign trip expenditure borne by state, the expenditure of our personal homes borne by state to name only a few. Let, they who dare to blame me, come and share these details. I wait for them. [website]

The biggest focus on the current PPP website is on the name. It is one that Manpreet seems particularly proud of, claiming:

In its functioning, Peoples Party of Punjab, will live up to its name. The functioning of this political party would solely be governed by meritocracy. All decisions would be based on consensus. No individual, whatever his position in party hierarchy may be, can ride roughshod over the views of other party members. Party workers, its cadre and its faithful supporters all would have an opportunity to express their views, with an assurance that their advise/suggestions/grievances would be carefully listened to. To quote an ancient Athenian statesman, instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all. [website]

In my opinion, this paragraph says it all. The fact that the website is in English AND even the name of the party is in English demonstrates that there is very little connection to the actual people of Punjab. One wonders who is intended audience really is? Does he even know his constituency? Anytime I have seen him on television, I always note that his Punjabi has almost as English as mine!!

His reference to an Athenian statesman and mentions of Plato also indicate his inspirations and how they are very different than that of his constituency. In the very land of Five Rivers given life by the blood and Bani of our Gurus and even created in its current form by the backs of the Sikhs, there is no mention of the Gurus. There is no inspiration from Sikh figures; there is no mention of our own forms of democracy the Sarbat Khalsa. All we get are Athenian statesman and a few trite odes to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev. When did Bhagat Singhs image come to shine brighter than the Panths true heroes?

While the agenda of the party seems to some positive policies, it is reformist, not revolutionary. This is not a Kesri revolution, but rather a basanti (this is the color he has picked for his party) reform. So again, in todays situation in Punjab, while I would consider voting for Manpreet as a protest against both the Congress and the fiefdom of Parkash Badal, it would not be because I am excited about true changes and reforms.

As I stated in a previous post following the Congress Party’s victory in the Center in 2009:

There is still much time between 2009 and the 2012 election for the Punjab Legislative Assembly. If the Lok Sabha election is an indication of the political winds, then the cyclical process will continue and hand the SAD a striking loss. Such would be good as it is only in defeat and in disarray that calls against Badals hegemony will be sounded. In fact the SAD mimics a panthic Party only as the opposition, never when in power.[link]

True change for the political state of the Panth has to be gained through victories in the SGPC. This is where it is possible and this is where the grassroots change can occur. Victories will be silent and not happen overnight.

So while I will applaud Parkash Badal’s loss, I can’t help but think – In a pool of poor choices, this may be the least poor. Still, it is NOTHING to get excited about (in fact, that is the tragedy)!

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18 Responses to “The Great Basanti Hype: Manpreet Badal and the Punjab Peoples Party”

  1. Muzumdar says:

    "There is no inspiration from Sikh figures; there is no mention of our own forms of democracy – the Sarbat Khalsa."

    That's the point; he's differentiating himself from the Akali Dal, which always draws on Sikh history and Sikh figures to garner votes.

    His PPP, as far as I'm aware, doesn't attempt to use Sikhism as means to get votes because it's not an explicitly religious party like the Akali Dal.

    This is probably a good thing considering the fact that the Akali Dal has, since 1947, done virtually nothing for Sikhs or Sikhism while constantly painting themselves as defenders of the faith.

    On paper at least, the PPP is a breath of fresh air.

    (Just for the record, I don't particularly care for Manpreet Badal or the PPP).



  2. kds says:

    Most of these parties that are emerging in various states are nothing but payroll of congress or its opposite.Mainly it is the congress that create these parties so opposition votes get divided.Here is an example a well known Telugu actor Chiranjeevi created a Party PRP by saying it is against the misrule of congress in 2008 ,as usual the strategy was sucessful and opposition votes got split in both assemble as well as Lok sabha election .He also sold tickets at very good price .In 2011 He merged his party with congress .Similarly after seeing a rift in thackerey family congress promoted Raj thackerey who considered himself as successor of Bal thackerey.He proved himself more lingustic fanatic by attacking UP Bihari people and congress gave him full usual the strategy was successful and Shiv sena-BJP combined lost both assemble and LOK sabha election.

    I am also quite sure that manpreet will eat some of Akali or congress votes and later on he will ally himself who has more seats.

  3. . . . Even in the diaspora, people (including my own father!) are excited, as I haven’t seen in years." My guess is he is more hopeful this time than excited. Like you Jodha I am not that excited either, but hopeful indeed. If nothing else and Manpreet sticks to his utterances he uttered so far within and without the so called inner circle quoting Sikh heroes or others, unable to speak a folksy Punjabi but seemingly making sense to most Punjabis who care to listen, will go down in history as the one who dared to stand up to the juggernaght and say STOP! (Besides heroes have one common mission and that is the "Sarbat da Bhalla" no particular religion or geographic boundaries.) Manpreet may not be able to stop this juggernaught which took years in the making, gather mass and momentum but he can pave the heroic way by opening a dialogue to alter its course. Without him riding the juggernaught, willing or unwilling, Punjabis seem to have a choice between the devil and the deep sea. The post is very apt.

  4. Narinder Singh says:

    You are mistaken when you write "The actual website for the PPP ".

    That one is not the party website. The one you are calling his blog is the website for now.

  5. nsg says:

    vaisey, eh website vee angreji vich hai, apni peeree thalley sota phero!

  6. […] have shared my views on Manpreet Badal and the PPP in the past. I still stand by my analysis, but as the election draws nearer, the youth of Punjab are making […]

  7. Guest Ji says:

    Though it would be nice if manpreet was inspired by Sikh idols, but our experience has been that all those who pay lip service to Sikhism only exploit the religion and give it a bad name.
    Hence, at least manpreet does not sully the image of Sikhism, Sikh idols and Sikh Gurus.