CHAPPAR CHIRI (Punjab): Eighty-five-year-old SAD leader Parkash Singh Badal was today sworn in as Chief Minister of Punjab for a record fifth time along with 17 other Cabinet-rank ministers, including his son Sukhbir, for a second successive term of the SAD-BJP alliance government.
Badal, his son Sukhbir, 50, as Deputy Chief Minister and 16 Cabinet-rank ministers (14 from the SAD and four from the BJP) were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Shivraj V. Patil here, about 25 km from Chandigarh, at a ceremony attended by leaders of various political parties, including the BJP, Trinamool Congress, NCP, JD-U and INLD.
Those present on the occasion included L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Vasundhara Raje, Navjot Sidhu (all from the BJP), Mukul Roy, Rachpal Singh, K.D. Singh (Trinamool Congress), Union Minister Praful Patel (NCP), JD-U chief Sharad Yadav and INLD leader Om Parkash Chautala.
The Chief Ministers present were Narendar Modi (Gujarat) and Prem Kumar Dhumal (Himachal Pradesh).
The exercise of government formation in the state with a 117-member Assembly, which can have 18 ministers, including the Chief Minister, was completed by Badal in one go.
The SAD-BJP alliance got absolute majority in the Assembly polls winning 68 seats, whereas the Congress got only 46.
Badal senior headed full two five-year terms from 1997 and 2007. His other terms were between 1977-1980 and 1970-71.
Only one woman Bibi Jagir Kaur, former President of SGPC, has been included in the ministry, though eight women of the alliance (SAD-six; BJP-two) were elected.
The Badal family has four members in the Cabinet.
Besides Badal senior and his son, others are Adesh Partap Singh Kairon (son-in-law of Badal senior) and Bikram Singh Majithia (brother-in-law of Sukhbir).
Badal has mostly reposed faith in former ministers as only four first-timers find place in the government. They are Bhagat Chuni Lal and Anil Joshi, both from the BJP, and Surjit Singh Rakhra and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, both from the SAD.
Rakhra had defeated Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh's son Raninder.
Former Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal has been named as the Pro Tem Speaker of the newly constituted state Assembly.
The SAD has created a record in the state since 1966 when Punjab was reorganised by becoming the first party ever to retain power in alliance with the BJP with an improved tally of 68 seats against 67 which the two parties secured in 2007. The BJP ended up with 12 legislators as against 19 in the outgoing House.
Besides Badal senior and Sukhbir who were elected from Lambi and Jalalabad seats, respectively, those sworn in were Bhagat Chuni Lal (BJP, Jalandhar West), Sarwan Singh Phillaur (SAD, Kartarpur SC), Adesh Partap Kairon (SAD, Patti), Ajit Singh Kohar (SAD, Shahkot), Gulzar Singh Ranike (SAD, Attari SAD), Madan Mohan Mittal (BJP, Anandpur Sahab), Parminder Singh Dhindsa (SAD, Sunam), Janmeja Singh Sekhon (SAD, Maur), Tota Singh (SAD, Dharamkot), Jagir Kaur (SAD, Bholath), Surjit Kumar Jyani (BJP, Fazilka), Bikram Singh Majithia (SAD, Majitha), Sikander Singh Malooka (SAD, Rampura Phul) Anil Joshi (BJP, Amritsar North), Surjit Singh Rakhra (SAD, Samana) and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon (SAD, Sahnewal).
If it was the sprawling Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium at Mohali in Punjab as the venue for the swearing in of Badal five years back, this time it was Chappar Chiri which has a place in Sikh history where the SAD-BJP government in its previous term had set up a memorial "Fateh Burj" (tower of victory).
Banda Singh Bahadur, one of the most respected warriors in Sikh history, had won the battle against Wazir Khan, who commanded the Mughal army in 1710, at Chappar Chiri in Ajitgarh district, about 25 km from the state capital.
The SAD-BJP alliance has come to power for the second successive term on the agenda of development and peace setting aside its traditional Panthic agenda, according to political observers.
The issues not taken up during the elections included the SAD's demands for the transfer of Chandigarh and of other Punjabi-speaking areas and settlement of river water-sharing disputes, with neighbouring states, including Haryana, besides its demand for a federal structure, including more rights for the states, they said.
Though Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Bihar—Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalitha and Nitish Kumar—had also been invited, they expressed their inability to attend the ceremony citing other pressing engagements.