Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH: Claiming the support of 67 newly elected MLAs of the Akali-BJP combine and Independents, the Shiromani Akali Dal president, Parkash Singh Badal, called on Punjab Governor S.F. Rodrigues at Raj Bhawan here on Wednesday to stake his claim to form the next a government in the State.

Letter of support

Mr. Badal, who was earlier unanimously elected leader of the alliance, handed over a letter of support and urged the Governor to invite him to form a government.

Mr. Badal also handed over a letter signed by senior leaders of both the parties declaring that the former had been elected the combined leader of the legislature groups of both the parties.

The letter was signed by BJP's central observer, M. Venkaiah Naidu, general secretaries, Arun Jaitley and Thawar Chand Gehlot, president of the State unit Avinash Rai Khanna. The signatories from the Shiromani Akali Dal included party secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and general secretaries, Kanwaljit Singh and Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Earlier, talking to reporters Mr. Badal said the swearing-in of the new government is scheduled for March 2, at the PCA cricket stadium in Mohali, the venue he chose 10 years ago also.

Both Mr. Badal and Mr. Jaitley discounted reports that there were differences over giving the post of Deputy Chief Minister to the BJP, as the issue had not been discussed at appropriate fora.

They sought to stress that there were no differences and the alliance would complete its tenure as it did last time.

Subsequently, the 19 MLAs of the BJP met at the party's office and elected former Minister, Manoranjan Kalia, leader of their group in the House.

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