I will be guarantor of peace in Punjab: Badal

Chandigarh, July 12 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said his government would never allow the hard-earned peace in the state to be disturbed and he would ensure that nothing affected communal harmony.

Badal’s statement came in the wake of flak from various quarters, including his party Shiromani Akali Dal’s alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the stand taken by his government on the issue of terrorism-linked Sikh prisoners.

“Maintaining peace, communal harmony and amity is the highest priority of my government,” Badal told media persons here while defending his government’s recent stand on the shifting of terrorism-linked Sikh prisoners from jails outside Punjab to prisons within the state.

“I will be the guarantor of peace and communal harmony in the state till my last breath,” the 87-year-old Badal, who is the eldest serving chief minister in the country, said.

Badal, however, said shifting of Sikh prisoners Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar (convicted in the Delhi blast case of 1993) and Gurdeep Singh Khaira, to Punjab “didn’t pose any threat to peace in Punjab”.

“The state government followed the entire procedure laid down by the government of India within the ambit of law of the land, that too with the prior consent of (union) Ministry of Home Affairs,” he said.

Badal said “unnecessary clamour and apprehensions”, in the wake of threat-perception to the hard-earned peace in Punjab, was “absolutely out of context and beyond anyone’s comprehension”.

He also requested the media to not create unwanted hype over the issue.

Badal government has been criticised by the opposition Congress for its open support to convicted terrorists. The BJP, an alliance partner of Badal-led government in Punjab, has also opposed the move.

Defending the credentials of the Shiromani Akali Dal as a secular party, Badal said nine Hindu candidates and one Muslim, besides 22 Scheduled Caste candidates, were elected on its party ticket in the 2012 Punjab assembly elections.

Punjab, which has a population of 2.77 crore, is dominated by Sikhs, followed by Hindus.

Meanwhile, despite differences surfacing among leaders at the state-level, Badal said the SAD-BJP alliance was strong and would continue.

Badal, the chief patron of the Akali Dal, denied that the ruling Akali Dal-combine faced any threat from “so-called strained relations”.

“The alliance with the BJP has been strong in the past, is strong now and will remain so in future. Both parties will contest the 2017 assembly elections jointly. There is no question of parting ways,” Badal, who has been chief minister five times, said during a ‘Meet-the-Press’ programme at the Chandigarh Press Club.

His statement came in reply to a question on the grievances publicly aired by some BJP leaders, including ministers in his own government, against the Akali Dal’s style of functioning.

The SAD-BJP alliance, which has been in power in Punjab since 2007, was re-elected in March 2012. Both parties have been together for over three decades in the state.

Some BJP ministers, including Industries Minister Madan Mohan Mittal and Local Bodies Minister Anil Joshi, have in recent weeks expressed their differences with the Akali Dal leadership.

Other BJP leaders and party legislators have also spoken out against the Akali Dal.

Punjab is expected to witness elections for the 117-member assembly in 2017.

Ruling out any electoral challenge from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, Badal said: “None can foresee the election results but on the basis of superb performance of the SAD-BJP alliance in the state, I am hopeful of their bright prospects during the 2017 state assembly poll.”



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