Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has always claimed that he has been the longest serving political prisoner in the country. That is being questioned now by Badal's political bete noire and Congress leader Amarinder Singh.
Badal's claim has been that after South Africa's anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who remained in confinement for 27 years, he has been the second longest serving political prisoner in the world with a total of 17 years in prison. Amarinder Singh, a former Punjab chief minister, has however claimed that Badal, 86, has spent just around five years in confinement during his entire political career of 67 years. "Badal did not spend more than five years in jail. Actually, he spent just 18 months in jail and that was during emergency (1975-77), and rest of the time was spent comfortably in state guest houses and the entire time period does not add up to even five years," Amarinder Singh, who comes from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala and is a bitter critic of Badal, told IANS.
Amarinder said that Badal's claim of being the longest serving political prisoner in the country is an "absolute lie" and there is no record to prove it. Over the years, no one openly disputed Badal's claims on this front. Amarinder minces no words when it comes to Badal. "He is a completely selfish man. He has ruined Punjab in the last few decades due to his politics of self interest. He is not bothered about Punjab. He played a dubious role during terrorism years (1981-92). Nearly 35,000 people lost their lives during this period. His role in the run up to the 1984 Operation Bluestar is also questionable. He went into hiding at his farmhouse in June 1984 after earlier meeting with central ministers," Amarinder asserted.
In fact, the height of sycophancy was when a minister in the Punjab government, which Badal heads as chief minister, demanded in December 2011 that Badal be given the Nobel peace prize for this 'achievement' along with his contribution to the "welfare of humanity". Tikshan Sud, who was industries minister in the Badal government then, wanted to see Badal's name counted with the likes of Nobel laureates like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama, Aung Sung Suu Kyi, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and others.
Incidentally, the minister lost the state assembly elections just a month later and his demand seems to have been lost in thin air after he ceased to be a minister. As a consolation though, Badal appointed him as his political advisor with cabinet rank last year. The ageing Badal can, perhaps, silence his critics by bringing out records of his prison years and other activities to prove them wrong. Just giving political statements to counter their allegation and not providing proof will not help his cause.