On the evening of 25th April when I received the news of Sardar Parkash Singh Badal Ji’s demise, I was filled with immense sadness. In his passing away, I have lost a father figure, someone who guided me for decades. In ways more than one, he shaped India’s and Punjab’s politics that can be described as unparalleled.

That Badal Sahab was a big leader is widely accepted. But, more importantly, he was a big-hearted human being. Being a big leader is easier but being a big-hearted person requires a lot more. People across Punjab say - there was something very different about Badal Sahab! (‘Badal Sahab Ki Baat Alag Thi’)

It can be confidently said that Sardar Parkash Singh Badal Sahab ranks among the tallest Kisan Neta of our times. Agriculture was his real passion. Whenever he spoke on any occasion, his speeches were filled with facts, latest information and a lot of personal insight.

I got to closely interact with Badal Sahab in the 1990’s when I was involved in Party work in Northern India. Badal Sahab’s reputation preceded him - he was a political stalwart who had been Punjab’s youngest Chief Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister and someone who held sway over the hearts of crores of Punjabis across the world. I, on the other hand, was an ordinary Karyakarta. Yet, true to his nature, he never let this create a gap between us. He was filled with warmth and kindness. These were traits that remained with him till his last breath. Everyone who interacted closely with Badal Sahab would recall his wit and sense of humour.

In the mid and late 1990’s the political climate in Punjab was very different. The state had seen much turmoil and elections were due in 1997. Our Parties went to the people together and Badal Sahab was our leader. His credibility was a key reason that the people blessed us with a resounding win. Not only that, our alliance successfully won the Municipal Elections in Chandigarh and also the Lok Sabha seat in the city. His persona was such that our alliance went on to serve the state for 15 years between 1997 and 2017!

There is an anecdote I can never forget. After taking oath as CM, Badal Sahab told me that we would go to Amritsar together, where we would halt at night and the next day we would pray and have Langar. I was in my room at a guest house but, when he got to know of this, he came to my room and began to pick up my luggage. I asked him why is he doing this, to which he told me that I would have to come with him to the room meant for the CM and stay there only. I kept telling him that there is no need to do this but he insisted. Eventually, this is exactly what happened and Badal Sahab stayed in another room. I will always cherish this gesture of his towards a very ordinary Karyakarta like me.

Badal Sahab had a very special interest in Gaushalas and kept various cows. During one of our meetings, he told me that he had a desire to breed cows from Gir. I arranged 5 cows for him and after that, when we would meet, he would talk to me about the cows and also joke that those cows are Gujaratis in every way- they never get angry, agitated or attack anyone including when children are playing around. He would also remark that no wonder the Gujaratis are so gentle…after all they drink the milk of the cows of Gir.

After 2001, I got to interact with Badal Sahab in a different capacity - we were now Chief Ministers of our respective states.

I was blessed to receive Badal Sahab’s guidance on numerous issues, especially those related to agriculture including water conservation, animal husbandry and dairy. He was also someone who believed in tapping the potential of the diaspora, considering there are so many hardworking Punjabis settled overseas.

Once he told me that he wants to understand what Alang Shipyard is about. Then he came there and spent the entire day at Alang Shipyard and understood how recycling takes place. Punjab is not a coastal state so in a way, there was no direct relevance of a shipyard for him but such was his desire to learn new things that he spent the day there and understood different aspects of the sector.

I will always cherish his words of appreciation towards the Gujarat Government’s repair and restoration efforts of the holy Lakhpat Gurudwara in Kutch, which was damaged during the 2001 quake.

After the NDA Government came to power at the Centre in 2014, he once again provided valuable insights based on his rich governmental experience. He strongly supported several reforms including the historic GST.

I have highlighted just a few aspects of our interaction. At a larger level, his contribution to our nation is indelible. He was among the bravest soldiers for the restoration of democracy during the dark days of the Emergency. He himself suffered the high-handedness of the imperious Congress culture when his governments were dismissed. And, these experiences only made his belief in democracy stronger.

During the turbulent period of the 1970’s and 1980’s in Punjab Badal Sahab put Punjab First and India First. He steadfastly opposed any plan that would weaken India or compromise the interests of the people of Punjab even if it meant loss of power.

He was a man deeply committed to fulfilling the ideals of the great Guru Sahibs. He also made noteworthy efforts to preserve and celebrate the Sikh heritage. Who can also forget his role in ensuring justice for the riot victims of 1984?

Badal Sahab was a person who brought people together. He could work with leaders of all ideologies. Badal Sahab never associated any relationship with political gains or losses. This was particularly useful in furthering a spirit of national unity.

The void left by Badal Sahab’s demise will be tough to fill. Here was a statesman whose life witnessed many challenges but he overcame them and rose like a phoenix. He will be missed but he will live on in our hearts and he will also live on through the outstanding work he has done over decades.

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GST collection rises 12.5% YoY to ₹1.68 lakh crore in February, gross FY24 sum at ₹18.4 lakh crore

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GST collection rises 12.5% YoY to ₹1.68 lakh crore in February, gross FY24 sum at ₹18.4 lakh crore
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A tribute to Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji
February 21, 2024

Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji attained Samadhi and left us all saddened. His life is a spiritually rich epoch graced with profound wisdom, boundless compassion and an unwavering commitment to uplift humanity. I have had the honour of receiving his blessings on numerous occasions. Thus, I feel a deep sense of loss, akin to losing a guiding light that has illuminated the path for countless souls, including myself. His warmth, affection and blessings were not just gestures of goodwill but profound transmissions of spiritual energy, empowering and inspiring all those fortunate enough to have come in contact with him.

Pujya Acharya Ji will always be remembered as a Triveni of wisdom, compassion and service. He was a true Tapasvi, whose life epitomised the ideals of Bhagwan Mahavir. His life exemplified the core principles of Jainism, embodying its ideals through his own actions and teachings. His care towards all living beings mirrored Jainism's profound respect for life. He lived a life of truthfulness, reflecting Jainism's emphasis on honesty in thought, word, and deed. He also led a very simple lifestyle. It is due to stalwarts like him that the world continues to be inspired by Jainism and the life of Bhagwan Mahavir. He stood tall among the Jain community but his impact and influence were not limited to only one community. People across faiths, regions and cultures came to him and he worked tirelessly towards spiritual awakening, particularly among the youth.

Education was an area very close to his heart. His journey from Vidhyadhar (his childhood name) to Vidhyasagar was one of deep commitment to acquiring and imparting knowledge. It was his firm belief that education is the cornerstone of a just and enlightened society. He championed the cause of knowledge as a means to empower individuals, enabling them to lead lives of purpose and contribution. His teachings emphasised the importance of self-study and self-awareness as the pathways to true wisdom, urging his followers to engage in lifelong learning and spiritual growth.

At the same time, Sant Shiromani Acharya Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji wanted our youngsters to get an education that is also rooted in our cultural ethos. He often said that it was because we drifted away from the learnings of the past that we were not able to find solutions to key challenges like water scarcity. He also believed that a holistic education is one that focusses on skilling and innovating. He took immense pride in India’s linguistic diversity and encouraged youngsters to learn Indian languages.

Pujya Acharya Ji himself wrote extensively in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Hindi. The heights he reached as a saint, and how grounded he was on the earth, is seen clearly in his iconic work Mookmati. Through his works, he gave a voice to the downtrodden.

In the domain of healthcare too, Pujya Acharya Ji’s contributions were transformative. He was associated with several efforts, especially in underserved areas. His approach to healthcare was holistic, integrating physical well-being with spiritual wellness, thereby addressing the needs of the person as a whole.

I would especially urge the coming generations to study extensively about Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji’s commitment to nation building. He would always urge people to rise above any partisan considerations and instead focus on national interest. He was one of the strongest votaries of voting because he saw it as an expression of participation in democratic processes. He advocated healthy as well as clean politics, even saying that policy making has to be about people’s welfare, not self interest (Lokneeti is about Loksangrah not Lobhsangrah).

He believed that a strong nation is built on the foundation of its citizens' commitment to their duties—towards themselves, their families, society, and the country. He encouraged individuals to cultivate virtues such as honesty, integrity and self-reliance, which he saw as essential for the creation of a just, compassionate, and thriving society. This emphasis on duties is of great importance as we work towards building a Viksit Bharat.

In an era where environmental degradation is rampant world over, Pujya Acharya Ji called for a way of life which would minimise the harm being inflicted on nature. Likewise, he saw a paramount role for agriculture in our economy, also stressing on making agriculture modern as well as sustainable. His work towards reforming jail inmates was also noteworthy.

The beauty of our land is that for thousands of years, our soil has produced greats who have shown light to others and made our society better. Pujya Acharya Ji stands as a towering figure in this illustrious lineage of saints and social reformers. Whatever he did, he did not just for the present but also the future. In November last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Chandragiri Jain Mandir in Dongargarh in Chhattisgarh. Little did I know that this visit would be my last meeting with Pujya Acharya Ji. Those moments were very special. He spoke to me for a long time, blessing me for my efforts in serving the nation. He expressed joy on the direction our nation is taking and the respect India is getting on the world stage. He was filled with enthusiasm while talking about the work he was doing. Then and always, his gentle gaze and serene smile were enough to instill a sense of peace and purpose. His blessings felt like a soothing balm on the soul, a reminder of the divine presence within and around us.

Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji’s void is deeply felt by all who knew him and were touched by his teachings and his life. However, he lives on in the hearts and minds of those he inspired. In honouring his memory, we commit to embodying the values he espoused. In this way, we not only pay tribute to a great soul but also take forward his mission for our country and people.