Badal stakes claim, invited to form government

Chandigarh : Parkash Singh Badal, 84, is to become chief minister of Punjab for a record fifth time with the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday formally electing him leader of the alliance’s legislative party.

Led by Badal, the alliance leaders met Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil and formally submitted their claim to form the government. Patil handed over a letter inviting Badal to form the government.

Badal will take oath as chief minister of Punjab Wednesday (March 14).

Earlier, a meeting of the alliance partners was held here in which senior leaders from both sides were present. Senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar suggested the name of Badal which was formally proposed by Punjab BJP president Ashwini Sharma. It was seconded by Akali Dal president and Badal’s son, Sukhbir Singh Badal.

After his election, in his witty style, Badal said: “I had become the youngest chief minister in the country in 1969 and now I am going to be the oldest chief minister in the country.”

Badal said the Akali Dal-BJP alliance was an emotional one and not driven by political considerations.

The oath-taking ceremony will take place at the historic Chappar Chiri memorial in Mohali district, 20 km from here, instead of at the Raj Bhawan as is usually the norm. Badal had taken oath as chief minister in 2007 at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium in front of thousands of supporters.

Earlier, there was speculation in Akali Dal and political circles on whether Parkash Singh Badal will agree to be chief minister or whether he will ask son Sukhbir to take charge.

Sukhbir Badal, who was deputy chief minister in his father’s outgoing government, led the Akali Dal campaign from the front and was the most visible face of the party during the assembly election campaign.

Party leaders are crediting him for the historic victory of the Akali Dal-BJP combine in the assembly poll.

Beating the traditional anti-incumbency factor, the combine bagged a comfortable majority with 68 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly.

It is for the first time in over four decades that a government has been able to return to power for a consecutive term in Punjab.

While the Akalis won 56 seats, the BJP bagged 12 seats.

The Congress, which was hopeful of being elected to power this time, got only 46 seats.

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