By Harihar Swarup
Over three years ago, in March 2018, Bikram Singh Majithia, former Shiromani Akali Dal minister and brother-in-law of its party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, had made headlines for extracting a public apology from Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, whom he had taken to court for accusing him of drug trafficking. Today, he is back on the front pages of newspapers in election-bound Punjab with police issuing a lookout against him after booking him under Narcotic Drugs Act.
As his party cries vendetta, the state awaits with bated breath to see what the man, who has so far managed to fend off of every curveball that has come in his way, will do next. It’s a reputation built in part due to his legal team that has been quick to nix all the unflattering content in his way ever since 2014, when an Arjuna awardee wrestler-turned-cop Jagdish Bhola, dismissed from police service for allegedly running a synthetic drug racket involving crores, hinted at Majithia’s involving in the trade.
Scion of one of the most powerful families of Punjab that traces its lineage to a general in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army, Majithia joined politics in 2007 when he fought and won his maiden Assembly election from Majitha. His elder sister Harsimrat Badal (brother-in-law Sukhbir Badal was then an MP from Faridkot) went door to door to canvass for him.
Shortly afterwards, the 31-year-old, who has a degree in business management from Delhi’s St. Stephen College, was installed as a minister in Prakash Singh Badal government, arguably the youngest member in an Akali-BJP ministry dominated by veterans.
In the Assembly, he would lead the party’s charge against Opposition with wit, vitriol, and some muscle. When it came to giving the Opposition a stinging retort, the party could bank on him as he took on everyone, including irascible Navjot Singh Sidhu when the latter switched to the Congress.
In Amritsar, where he owns a house, acquaintances call him a deeply spiritual man who enjoys reading and can discuss any subject under the sun. He is also known to be a teetotaler and vegetarian. Sukhbir Badal had once laughingly remarked, “Even their dogs are vegetarian”.
It was long before murmurs started that Majithia, president of Youth Akali Dal, would one day upstage Sukhbir. People pointed out to his hallowed pedigree – his great grandfather was the founding President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in 1920; the family bought its first plane in 1935; his grandfather was the deputy defence minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet from 1957 to 1962, and his father Satyajit Singh not only ran a business empire spread across UP and Punjab, but also presided over Amritsar’s College that his forefathers had helped found in 1892. It was a potent mix of panth and wealth.
With his elder brother Gulmehar Singh tending to the Saraya Group of Industries, named after the family estate in Gorakhpur district of UP, Majithia focused on politics, taking a leaf out of Akali patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s old school politics—attending every marriage and bhog ceremony of his workers, a practice he continues even today.
His marriage in 2009 to Ganieve Grewal, daughter of Delhi-based industrialist, was a grand affair that dazzled toffee-nosed Chandigarh, with nine different kinds of international cuisine—including Majithia’s personal favourite, Italian—and a host of NRIs in attendance. Those days, the Akali government was trying to woo NRI investments with annual meets, and Majithia was self-appointed hospitality in-charge.
Along the way, he also made many enemies, some inside the party who disliked his strongman style, abrasive speeches, and his fleet of cars—an avid rallyist, he was a regular at Himalayan circuit. In 2020, the Akali Dal claimed he was getting threats from anti-national elements abroad, and the UPA government at the Centre gave him Z-plus security. Nobody cared to find out why he was under threat. But in the pantheon of post- terrorism Punjab politician, where your security details defined your pecking order, Majithia had arrived.
After he won the polls in 2012, it became increasingly clear you couldn’t mess with Majithia. (IPA Service)