Badal to begin fifth term as chief minister Wednesday

March 13th, 2012 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Shivraj Patil Chandigarh, March 13 (IANS) With an expected crowd of over 50,000 people looking on, Parkash Singh Badal, 84, will become chief minister of Punjab for a record fifth time Wednesday as he takes oath of office at the historical Sikh memorial of Chappar Chiri in Mohali town.

Badal, who served as chief minister in 1969, 1977, 1997 and 2007, has held office for nearly 14 years so far.

His cabinet, including his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who will be inducted as deputy chief minister, will be sworn-in by Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil at a specially built dais in Mohali, 20 km from here.

In his witty style, Parkash Singh 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.”

The venue of the oath-taking ceremony has the country’s highest tower - Fateh Burj (victory tower) - which is dedicated to the memory of Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, who established the Sikh state in the country by defeating Mughal forces led by Wazir Khan.

The battle was fought to avenge the killing of the four young sons of 10th Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, and hundreds of other Sikhs and Hindus by the Mughal forces.

The battle between the Sikh and Mughal forces was fought at Chappar Chiri, which is now part of Mohali town. The 328-feet tower, taller than the Qutub Minar in Delhi, was dedicated to the public November last year.

A number of national leaders and those from other parties and states are expected to be present at Badal’s oath taking ceremony.

The leaders expected to attend the function include former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others.

Invites were also sent to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa but they expressed their inability to attend the function owing to pre-occupation. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who was scheduled to attend the ceremony, is unlikely to be come as he is indisposed.

Badal was last week formally elected leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance.

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 rival Congress got only 46 seats.

The oath-taking ceremony will take place at the historic Chappar Chiri memorial in Mohali district instead of at the Raj Bhavan 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.

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.

Earlier, there was speculation in the 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.

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