In the state of five rivers, it is the six families that control the politics in the state. It is the Jats who dominate the political scene, and inter-clan marriages between these six families have ensured that no family is ever completely out of power. Apart from the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the rest have direct or indirect relations with these families – the Royals of Patiala, Badals of Muktsar, Majithias of Amritsar, Kairons of Tarn Taran, Brars of Sarai Naga and Manns of Sangrur have ruled over Punjab since Partition. Be it the government or the opposition, the power is volleyed between these six clans.
The Royals of Patiala
Beginning with the king of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh, who aligned himself with Congress after the kingdom was incorporated into the Union in 1948. The king was a descendant of Phulkian dynasty. His wife, Mohinder Kaur was a former Member of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. He has two sons, Capt. Amarinder Singh and Malvinder Singh. Malvinder Singh is less active in politics, while his brother, former Chief Minister of Punjab and President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt. Amarinder Singh has been declared a Chief Minister candidate again by Congress. Amarinder’s wife, Maharani Preneet Kaur is a former Minister of State in the External Affairs Ministry and former Member of Parliament from Patiala. Their son Raninder Singh is the president of National Rifle Association. He unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha election from Bathinda in 2009 and Assembly election from Samana in 2012. Their daughter Jayainder Kaur is married to a Delhi-based businessman, Gurpal Singh, who is a cousin of Bikramjit Majithia. Former External Affairs minister of India, K. Natwar Singh, from Congress is married to Amarinder’s elder sister, Heminder Kaur.
The Manns of Sangrur
Lt. Col. Joginder Singh Mann was a speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1967. His son, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) supremo and former IPS Officer Simaranjit Singh Mann is brother-in-law of Capt. Amarinder Singh. The former Member of Parliament from Tarn Taran (1989) and Sangrur (1999) is married to Geetinder Kaur, who is sister of Maharani Preneet Kaur. Geetinder assists her husband Mann in managing his election campaign. Both Preneet Kaur and Geetinder Kaur, are daughters of former Principal Secretary of Punjab, Gyaan Singh Kahlon. Mann’s son, Emann Singh is also a politician.
The Brars of Sarai Naga
Jaswant Singh Kairon’s (member of Communist Party) daughter Gurbinder Kaur Rano married Harcharan Singh Brar, the rich young heir of Sarai Naga in Muktsar district and President of Punjab State Congress. HS Brar later became Punjab’s chief minister from the Congress for a brief period, following the assassination of Beant Singh in August 1995. The Brars had two children, Babli Brar and Kanwarjit Singh (Sunny Brar). While daughter Babli lost to Sukhbir Badal in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls in Faridkot, son Sunny Brar was elected MLA in 1977 and 2007. Sunny Brar’s wife, Karan Kaur and Harpriya Kaur are sisters. Harpriya Kaur is wife of Malvinder Singh, younger brother of Capt. Amarinder Singh.
The Kairons of Tarn Taran
Pratap Singh Kairon was a close associate of Nehru and United Punjab’s dynamic chief minister for eight years till 1964. He was first CM of Punjab from Congress. His brother was Jaswant Singh Kairon, thus making Gurbinder Kaur Rano, his niece. Pratap Singh Kairon’s two sons, Surinder and Gurinder were Congress leaders. Surinder Singh Kairon was also a Member of Parliament in 1991 from Congress. The Kairons were traditionally Congress till Surinder’s son and Pratap Singh Kairon’s grandson Adesh Pratap married into the Badal dynasty. Adesh is an MLA from SAD and the minister for food and supplies. He changed the family’s politics after he married Parkash Badal’s daughter, Parneet Kaur in 1982.
The Badals of Muktsar
Originally called Dhillon, the family changed their surname to Badal. The five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is the family patriarch. The Badals head the largest Sikh party: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). He has two children, Sukhbir Singh and Parneet Kaur. While Parneet Kaur is married to Adesh Pratap Kairon of Kairon dynasty, Sukhbir Singh is married to Harsimrat Kaur of Majithia dynasty. Sukhbir Singh Badal is deputy Chief Minister and president of SAD. Parkash Singh Badal’s brothers have also enjoyed power because of him. His brothers; Gurdas Badal managed SAD’s election campaign in Lambi, Gidderbaha and Bathinda, Paramjit Singh Dhillon (Laali Badal) has been a member of Punjab Public Service Commission, Bhupinder Singh Dhillon remained Political Advisor to Chief Minister (1997-2002) and Hardeepinder Singh Dhillon has been a former Transport Minister in SAD government.
The Badal family witnessed their biggest fight, when Parkash Singh Badal handed over the reins of SAD to his son Sukhbir in 2010. His estranged cousin Manpreet Badal quit the party. Manpreet was the Chief Minister’s favourite nephew and son of Gurdas Badal. It was his uncle who inducted him into politics in 1995 on his return home from London University. Manpreet was the finance minister in the Badal government. But differences with his headstrong cousin Sukhbir (political pundits say that Manpreet considered himself to be the heir due to his popularity in the party while Sukhbir had been grooming himself to inherit his father’s mantle since the 1990s) forced him to quit and float his own party, Peoples’ Party of Punjab (PPP). He lost state legislative elections in 2012 and general elections in 2014. In 2016, Manpreet merged his party in Congress and is now contesting on Congress ticket and is touted to be the next finance minister, if Congress wins the elections.
Manpreet Badal is now preparing his son Arjun Badal to step into active politics.
The Majithias of Amritsar
The Badals have close filial ties with the descendants of Ranjit Singh’s ferocious Majithia generals. In 1991, Sukhbir Singh Badal strengthened his political clout by marrying Harsimrat Kaur, the granddaughter of Surjit Singh Majithia, who was India’s deputy defence minister in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government in 1952. Harsimrat’s younger brother, Bikramjit Majithia is the president of the SAD youth wing and more importantly, Sukhbir’s most trusted aide. Bikramjit is also the Revenue Minister in SAD government. Surjit Singh’s son and father of Harsimrat-Bikramjit, Satyajit Majithia was owner of the rich Saraya Group and had business interests with Badals in sugar, liquor and aviation sector. This was how, a pro-Congress Majithia family turned Akalis. The Badal-Majithia alliance was a consolidation of both power and wealth.
Call it destiny or irony, history seems to repeat itself. In the 19th century Anglo-Sikh Wars, Patiala sided with the British against Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s forces. The king of Patiala, Ranjit Singh’s General’s descendants and an outsider’s forces are locking horns again in 2017. Punjab elections are merely a process of temporarily shifting the balance of power from one clan to the other.
Let us see, which clan wins this fight!