CHANDIGARH: It was an election fought in the name of one Badal but led from the front by another, a two-pronged strategy that propelled the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to a record consecutive term. The million-dollar political question now is - which Badal will be the next chief minister of Punjab?
The Akali Dal sought votes from the electorate in the name of four-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. But it was the political management of his son and Akali Dal president, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Punjab deputy chief minister, which led the party to create history by coming back to power for a second consecutive term.
The question on "who is the next CM" was popped to Badal Senior Tuesday after the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) romped home with 68 seats in the 117 member assembly.
"It is for the party leadership to decide on who will be the chief minister," Badal, clearly trying to evade the question, said.
Badal Senior, 84, during his campaigning, used to openly tell voters that this would be his last election. Having joined politics in 1947 and being elected to the assembly for the first time in 1957, Badal is a veteran in Indian politics.
He became chief minister for the first time in 1970. Subsequently, he remained chief minister from 1977-80, 1997-2002 and 2007-2012. He had been a union minister too.
Sukhbir, who is being credited by Akali Dal leaders for the party's remarkable victory, was more clear on the issue.
Badal Junior, 49, said: "We will consult the party but Parkash Singh Badal will be the candidate (for being CM)."
He also said the party would govern for 25 years.
Dropping hints about Sukhbir's elevation, the chief minister said: "It is the victory of the people of Punjab. But I must appreciate Sukhbir Badal as he worked very hard with the party organisation. He had a big role as party president. He played the role effectively. I am fully satisfied."
Sukhbir led the Akali Dal campaign from the front and was the most visible face of the party compared to his ageing father.
Given the fact that Sukhbir's uncle Gurdas Badal was contesting against Parkash Singh Badal from the Lambi assembly seat this time, the chief minister was forced to spend a lot of time in his own constituency.
With the Akali Dal being a regional party, Sukhbir took up the challenge of the campaign as the Congress brought in central leaders like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to campaign for the party candidates.
In the outgoing government (2007-2012), it was Sukhbir, who was first elevated as Akali Dal president and subsequently made deputy chief minister (in 2009), who called the shots in his father's government.