REFUSING TO get drawn into a speculation over chief ministerial candidate for the SAD-BJP alliance, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Friday said that is a decision to be taken by the party and Sukhbir Singh Badal, his son and the party president.
Stating that he will take up the post if the alliance emerges victorious in next year’s elections and the party wants him to, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch and five-time chief minister also said that Sukhbir has evolved into a “mature politician” and could be the next chief minister if the alliance wins next year’s Assembly polls. But, that he said, is also for the party to decide.
“It’s the party’s decision — it’s neither Sukhbir’s decision, nor mine,” he said. “I have never wanted to be the chief minister,” Badal said at The Indian Express Idea Exchange programme, when asked if he should step aside for the next generation. “I have seen so much in my life… I have been in the Centre (as a minister in the Morarji Desai government). But it is the party, and not the individual, who decides. I did not decide the last time (to become CM, when SAD-BJP won in 2012) — the party decided, and even Sukhbir said, ‘you have to serve (as chief minister)’.”
Badal, who turns 89 this December, said, “The party has given me so much, I am so much in debt (to SAD)… whatever the party says, I will do. There is no greed involved.” Stating that the SAD-BJP alliance will “definitely” win the election, he said discussions of an anti-incumbency, anti-Akali Dal and anti-Badal sentiment running high in Punjab is a creation of the media.
He also brushed aside suggestions that the indifference shown by the Narendra Modi government to SAD’s demands for a special package for Punjab showed that all was not right between the alliance partners. Without naming the Centre, he said the state government could not force “anyone” for a special package.
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He said relations between the two parties are “excellent”, and that SAD and BJP are the “best combination” to ensure peace and communal harmony in the state.
He described the AAP, which is hoping to do well in its maiden election in the state, as “mushrooms” and junked its allegations about a purported SAD-Congress nexus. The Congress’s “whole history is anti-Punjab”, Badal said, and asked, “As a party looking after the interests of Punjab, how can SAD have any combination with the Congress? I remained in jail during Congress’s time (for several years).”