Ruling out any scope for “petty vendetta politics,” Punjab's 31st Chief Minister-elect Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday said the government would remain dedicated to fulfilling the aspirations of the people by accelerating the pace of development.
Mr. Badal was addressing a rally of Akali workers after paying obeisance at Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of the historic festival of Hola Mohalla, a party release said here.
He said the focus would be on pro-poor and development policies as well as completing the “unfinished tasks” of the previous tenure.
Mr. Badal announced extension of the free bicycle scheme to girl students of the 9th and 10th class, besides free education to all girl students up to post-graduation.
Later talking to reporters, Mr. Badal ruled out the possibility of any controversy over the number of BJP ministers in the Cabinet. He said the alliance was not merely political as both parties enjoyed an emotional bonding.
Responding to questions, he said the Congress paid the price for the unprecedented price rise, corruption and failure to provide security to the citizens.
Party president Sukhbir Singh swore to intensify the war against the drug trade and called upon the people to join hands with the government to remove the scourge.
He warned the Akali Dal-BJP workers against any complacency as the “historic” victory mandated heightened efforts to fulfil the aspirations of the electorate.
He said efforts would be made to improve infrastructure in villages and cities, and governance, besides strengthening systems to tackle corruption.
Record fifth time
Mr. Badal, 84, will be sworn in as Chief Minister on March 14 for a record fifth time. On Thursday, the newly elected legislators of the Shiromani Akali Dal unanimously chose him as the leader of the legislature party.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held at the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur memorial at Chhaparchiri in Ajitgarh (Mohali) district, about 20 km from here. Mr. Badal is expected to formally call on the Governor after Friday's joint meeting of the newly elected MLAs of the SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which won 68 seats in the 117-member House.
The meeting is also expected to select a deputy chief minister. Some central leaders of the BJP are likely to participate.
For the third time in a row, the Akali Dal-BJP has chosen a venue outside the customary Raj Bhavan for the ceremony. In 1997 and 2007, the swearing-in was held in the world famous Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali.
Set up during Mr. Badal's fourth tenure, the memorial is dedicated to the historic victory of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur over the Mughal governor of Sirhind in 1710.
A veteran leader, who has led various political movements, including the historic Akali struggle against Emergency, Mr. Badal held the Chief Minister's post in 1970, 1977-80, 1997-2002 and 2007 till date. Though his political career began in 1947, Mr. Badal was first elected as MLA in 1957.
The meeting of the elected Akali legislators was held in Punjab Bhawan, government run guesthouse, where Mr. Sukhbir Singh proposed his father's name as the leader. While unanimously agreeing to the proposal, the legislators showered liberal accolades on the party chief for chalking out a detailed strategy to decimate the Congress.
Thanking the people and the party for the historic victory and reposing confidence in him, Mr. Badal exhorted the new MLAs to collectively take a vow to ensure justice and contribute in the ongoing development process. Mr. Badal was of the view that in this election the secular image of the alliance had been strengthened, while more than two dozen new faces had received a chance to serve the public. He appreciated the smooth alliance with the BJP in the last five years and vowed to carry forward the policies that had received people's approval.