For someone who debuted in politics only 10 years ago, Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Having been one of three women in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, her resignation drives home the fact that the government is only interested in checking boxes when it comes to female representation in legislature.
Resigning from the Union Cabinet over the recently passed contentious agriculture bills, which she calls the ‘anti-farmer’ bills, Badal finds herself in the eye of the storm that is strongly gripping the country. Standing true to her acronym, ‘the Firebrand from Punjab’, she was detained over the farm laws protest, a day before Gandhi Jayanti. She has been quoted as saying that the government is bringing in bills without consultation with the required stakeholders.
As she took charge of the food processing portfolio for the second time in 2019, Badal was one of the only three women in PM Modi’s council of ministers, and the only one from a minority group. Hence her departure from the union cabinet not only diminishes the female representation —or what’s left of it anyway— but also marks the departure of diversity.
Although her lineage stems from big political dynasties, the Majithias and the Badals, she has proven herself to be more than a sum of her surnames while time and again demonstrating the various skills from her bag of tricks.
Known for her fiery speeches, Badal plunged into mainstream politics in 2009 during the 15th Lok Sabha elections by awarding a massive defeat in Bhatinda, almost 1.4 lakh votes, to current chief minister Amarinder Singh’s son, Raninder Singh.
The city that would once be shunned as a ‘punishment posting’ has found itself amidst a plethora of new opportunities ever since Badal came to power. This has translated into her three-time winning streak in Bhatinda evidently showing the affection that the people of Bhatinda seem to have for their biba, a good girl. And rightly so.
As a torchbearer of Sikh pride, she passionately manifested her rightful indignation of the status of victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, in a powerful speech in the Lok Sabha in 2009. Badal’s trademark look — a salwar kameez with a dupatta covering her head — is seen as a bid to bring a conventional Sikh voter into the fold. So much so that when she wore a silk saree in her meeting with the then US president Barack Obama, her followers went on a long tirade about her having betrayed her Punjabi heritage.
In her tenure as the Union Cabinet minister of Food Processing Industries, she has various achievements to her name. Establishing a NABARD fund and getting 100% FDI for the trading of food products that are produced and manufactured in the country, are to name a few. Her brainchild, World Food India event, has been credited with bringing numerous investment proposals rather than just grabbing eyeballs.
Badal has long been a champion of female representation in the Indian parliament. Being one of the strongest proponents of the women’s reservation bill, she advocates for filling the political divide between men and women. Giving a clarion call to end gender discrimination and female foeticide in Punjab, she started a campaign called Nanhi Chhaan, meaning innocent life, a year before her debut in politics. Badal has since often raised the issue of the skewed sex ratio in her native state and even funds a variety of campaigns to save trees.
Badal’s politics is not ideological, but personal. This is clear as day in her own experiences as a mother of three children and even her strong sentiments on the 1984 riots, which comes from her first-hand experience of being hidden away at the time in the family’s servant quarters. Her passion for making the lives of Indian farmers better also speaks to the same. As opposed to her taciturn husband, her outspokenness and feisty manner seem to be taking her a long way off.
Apart from, obviously being a successful leader, Badal is the proud owner of a private jewelry business at Gurgaon’s Trident Hotel. Incidentally, she is also one of the richest Indian MPs with over Rs. 40 crore assets.
Her resignation might have put her in a topsy-turvy boat but given the repertoire of skills she has displayed, being an on-their-toes politician, with great numbers to back it up and not to mention her squeaky clean image, she should be fine.