CHANDIGARH: The country's oldest serving Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, turned 89 years old on Thursday.
Despite his age, Badal accepted greetings from his family members and close aides and was all set to address a big rally of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Punjab government in Moga district later in the day.
Born on December 8, 1927, at Abul Khurana village near Malout in southwest Punjab, Badal has been Chief Minister five times -- 1970-71, 1977-1980, 1997-2002, 2007-2012 and 2012 onwards. He has been in power in Punjab continuously since March 2007. He was briefly a Union minister in 1977 in the Morarji Desai government.
Hailing from a simple agricultural background, Badal forayed into politics by getting elected as a sarpanch (village headman) in 1947, the year the country won its Independence.
He was first elected to the Punjab assembly in 1957 on a Congress party ticket. After leaving the Congress soon after, Badal ended up opposing the Congress policies and governments.
Well-known for his witty one-liners and memory of people and events, Badal, who was conferred the Padma Vibhushan -- the country's second-highest civilian honour -- in 2015 by the Modi government, has dominated Punjab's political and Sikh religious affairs in nearly 70 years of public life.
With assembly elections in Punjab to be held early next year, Badal is now in full election mode and is even telling the electorate that their votes "will give him another 10 years of life".
Badal's son Sukhbir Singh Badalk is the Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president. Badal's wife, Surinder Kaur, died in 2011 of cancer.
Badal's close family members are all in the government. Besides Sukhbir holding two important assignments in the government and the party, Badal's daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal is the Union Minister for Food Processing. His son-in-law Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon is a cabinet minister in the Punjab government while Harsimrat's younger brother, Bikram Singh Majithia, is also a powerful cabinet minister.