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Anshu Seth , Hindustan Times
Ludhiana, July 20, 2013
The swearing-in of the new-elected members of the 146 block samitis and 22 zila parishads on Friday was delayed by an hour, as BJP minister Chunni Lal Bhagat arrived late at the venue. The minister for local government and medical education and research, who is also state legislative head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had arrived in Ludhiana at 11.30am but stayed back at Circuit House for almost another hour, while deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and other members of the cabinet and ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) remained waiting for him at Dana Mandi near the Jalandhar bypass.

To show that all was well within the SAD-BJP alliance, Sukhbir not only waited patiently for the minister but also rural development and panchayat minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, later, honoured Bhagat with a Siropa. Thereafter, Sukhbir administered oath to 2,731 new members of block samitis and 331 members of 22 zila parishads, asking them to fulfil their promise of working for the welfare of the rural population.

Announcing Rs-10,000-crore development plan for 3,047 villages of the state, Sukhbir said anti-incumbency was no longer a factor in Punjab, reflecting a mature democracy where voters rewarded performance.

Countering the reports of violence between Akali factions during the panchayat elections, which claimed at least four lives, Sukhbir claimed even the opponents had praised his managing of the contest. "I would like to refer to an appreciation message from a Congress MLA, who congratulated me for a well-managed election," said the deputy CM.

"(Chief minister) Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal have succeeded owing to their motto of 'Raaj Nahin Sewa' (Not rule but service)," said Bhagat, who also took a dig at the Opposition by saying there was nothing left in Punjab called the Congress. "The alliance was confident of winning all 13 seats in the coming Lok Sabha elections," he said.

Toilet in every village house in 2 years: Rakhra

Minister for rural development and panchayats Surjit Singh Rakhra said that in another two years, the state government will fulfil its promise of building a toilet in every village house. "For the first time, the government has issued identity cards to all new members of the zila parishads and block samitis, which will give them access to the CM, deputy CM and other ministers," he said.