History of Punjab politics: Jats do it!
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) The landed community of Jat Sikhs in Punjab continues to dominate the state's political scene and the Feb 13 assembly elections will most likely throw up a Jat Sikh leader as the new chief minister.
With the main fight this time again between the ruling Congress and the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) combine, the leadership issue in the post-poll scenario is almost clear.
While incumbent Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is expected to lead the Congress if the party is voted back to power, Akali Dal president and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is the undisputed choice if his coalition wrests power.
One thing common, though, for the two leaders is that they belong to Punjab's politically dominant Jat Sikh community.
Jat Sikhs are typically land-owners, many of them rich, and constitute nearly 28 percent of the state's 24.3 million population.
Despite the Dalit community constituting 31 percent of Punjab's population, it has been Jat Sikh leaders who have emerged as chief ministers here.
Amarinder Singh belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, one of the most famous Jat Sikh families in the last few centuries.
Badal comes from one of the land-rich Jat Sikh families in the Muktsar area.
His son Sukhbir Badal is also being groomed to be his political heir.
Since Nov 1, 1966, when the original Punjab was re-organised to carve out a new state of Haryana and the hilly areas were made part of Himachal Pradesh, there have been 13 chief ministers in the state.
All of them except one, Giani Zail Singh (1972-77) who went on to become the country's first Sikh president (1982-87), have been from the Jat Sikh community.
Other than Zail Singh, Badal (1997-2002) and Amarinder Singh (2002-07), none of the chief ministers in Punjab could complete their five-year terms.
Badal is now taking his fourth shot at being chief minister. In three earlier terms - 1970-71, 1977-1980 and 1997-2002 - he has ruled the state for a total of nearly nine years.
The state saw central rule being imposed on it six times between 1968 and 1992. Since 1992, when President's rule in the state was last lifted after a bloody decade of Sikh terrorism, all chief ministers have been Jat Sikhs.
The state started to return to normalcy under Congress chief minister Beant Singh, who himself was assassinated by Sikh terrorists in 1995. Congress chief ministers H.S. Brar and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal followed him. Bhattal is deputy chief minister in Amarinder Singh's government.
Badal was the next incumbent followed by Amarinder Singh.