CHANDIGARH, March 8 (IANS): Setting aside speculation over the leadership issue, the Shiromani Akali Dal Thursday unanimously elected Parkash Singh Badal to be the party's legislature party leader. Badal will be sworn in next week as Punjab chief minister for a record fifth term.
Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal announced Thursday after the legislature party meeting that Parkash Singh Badal would continue as the chief minister of the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government in the state.
Sukhbir Badal said that the oath-taking ceremony will take place March 14 at the historic Chappar Chiri memorial in Mohali district, 20 km from here, instead of at the at the Raj Bhawan as is usually the norm.
Earlier, before going for the meeting, Sukhbir Banl made it clear that his father, the elder Badal, will continue in the top job after the SAD-BJP combine was voted back to power in the assembly elections.
Talking to reporters, Sukhbir said that Badal senior is the only choice for being chief minister.
"As Akali Dal president, I announce that Badal Sahib (Parkash Singh Badal) will be the next chief minister also," Sukhbir said.
Badal Sr. has been chief minister four times earlier in 1970, 1977, 1997 and 2007.
The Akali Dal core committee will meet Thursday evening, followed by a meeting with alliance partner BJP on Friday.
There was speculation earlier in Akali Dal and political circles here on whether Parkash Singh Badal, 84, will agree to a record fifth term as chief minister or whether he will Sukhbir Singh Badal to take charge.
Sukhbir Badal, who is the 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, compared to his ageing father.
Party leaders are crediting him for the historic victory of the Akali Dal-BJP combine in the assembly poll.
Beating the traditional anti-incumbency factor, the combine bagged a comfortable majority with 68 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly as results were declared.
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 Congress, which was hopeful of returning to power this time, got only 46 seats.
The venue of the oath-taking ceremony next week has the country's highest tower - Fateh Burj (Victory Tower) - which is dedicated to the memory of the 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 tenth 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, 20 km from Chandigarh. The tower was dedicated to the public November last year.