Chandigarh: The recent cold wave may have partially abated from Punjab, but political clouds continue to loom over the state. The state's ruling first family Badal (which literally means cloud) and its extended clan are out in full force to contest next week's assembly polls. There may be over 1,000 candidates testing their luck in the Jan 30 elections to 117 assembly seats in Punjab, but the Badal family, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 84, has nearly a dozen leaders in the fray this time.
While the chief minister is contesting for his traditional Lambi seat from Muktsar district, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Shiromani Akali Dal president, is seeking re-election to the Jalalabad seat from Ferozepur district.
Sukhbir's wife and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal is actively campaigning for her father-in-law as he faces perhaps his toughest political test, being pitted against his younger brother Gurdas Badal, 81, and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal in Lambi.
Gurdas Badal, who used to be his elder brother's poll manager till the last election (2007) and used to nurse the constituency on his behalf, has entered the fray as a candidate of the People's Party of Punjab (PPP). The PPP was floated last year by former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the son of Gurdas Badal. Manpreet had left the government of his uncle in October 2010 following ideological differences.
Manpreet Badal is himself contesting from two assembly constituencies - Gidderbaha, which he has represented four times, and the new constituency of Maur.
The surname 'Badal' comes to the family from their ancestral village Badal, near Lambi town in Muktsar district.
Another Badal in the fray, though not from the original Badal family, is former Punjab agriculture minister Gurdev Singh Badal from the Jaiton (reserved) constituency.
Besides the immediate Badal family, there are other close relatives in the fray as well. Bikram Singh Majithia, the brother of Harsimrat Badal and brother-in-law of Sukhbir Badal, is seeking re-election from Majitha near Amritsar.
Parkash Singh Badal's son-in-law Adaesh Pratap Singh Kairon is seeking re-election to his traditional Patti seat from Tarn Taran district.
Another relative of the chief minister, Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, is contesting against Manpreet Badal for the Maur seat.