In new Akali Cabinet, 3 ministers are CMs kin

The new Cabinet, which was sworn in today, not only has a fair number of young faces and first-time ministers but also three ministers directly related to Parkash Singh Badal.

They include his nephew, a son-in-law and a brother-in-law of his son, MP Sukhbir Singh Badal. Upinderjit Kaur, daughter of the late Akali minister Atma Singh, and Parminder Singh Dhindsa, son of Akali MP S S Dhindsa, are the other two ministers who are the faces of what has widely come to be called 'parivarvad'.

Manpreet, son of Badal's elder brother Gurdas Singh Badal, is a 43-year-old Bar at Law from London, drafts all the speeches of Badal senior. A four-time MLA from Gidderbaha, and an alumnus of Doon School and St Stephen's, Manpreet was the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the 12th Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

While political observers feel that there are legitimate grounds for him to become a minister, there is a lot of resentment at the induction of first-time MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, brother-in-law of Sukhbir Singh Badal. "There is no doubt that the 31-year-old MLA owes his seat to Sukhbir Singh Badal," said an Akali leader who did not want to be named.

Majithia's quick rise spells out the amount of influence Sukhbir wields over his father's Cabinet. A graduate of St Stephen's College, Majithia is also the great grandson of Sunder Singh Majithia, the founder president of SGPC, and grandson of S S Majithia, deputy defence minister in the Union Government.

Adesh Partap Singh Kairon an excise and taxation minister in the 1997 Akali ministry, is married to Badal's only daughter Parneet Kaur. A scion of the Kairon family that gave Punjab its first chief minister in Partap Singh Kairon, this third-time MLA from Patti is an engineer from PEC, Chandigarh, and a business graduate from the Kellogg University.

While his induction into the Cabinet was expected, given his creditable performance as a minister in the 1997 Cabinet, many partymen are finding it hard to digest the inclusion of three members of Badal family into the ministry at one go. Former Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta said: "It clearly shows how Parkash Singh Badal is only furthering the interests of his own family under the garb of democracy. What about the party cadre? Doesn't this show that no matter how committed they are, Akali workers have no future in this party."

However, Dr D S Cheema, spokesperson of SAD(B), brushed aside these allegations, saying that no one can doubt the competence of Kairon and Manpreet Badal. "Their administrative acumen is only too well-known. As far as Bikram Majithia is concerned, he has proved his mettle by working for his constituency in the last five years."

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