Joining the chorus for granting Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said on Tuesday that he (Vajyapee) was the most deserving candidate for the nation's highest civilian honour.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which remained in power at the Centre from 1999 to 2004, with Vajpayee at the helm. The BJP has already sought Bharat Ratna for the former PM, a demand supported by union ministers Farooq Abdullah and M Pallam Raju and former NDA ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
"Vajpayee was an able administrator, a true statesman and above all the only political stalwart with undisputed credentials of secularism, who kept the nation united by demonstrating real democratic spirit and strengthening the ethos of national integration, communal harmony, peace and amity," the CM said while taking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the 17th death anniversary function of Subedar Kartar Singh, father of cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.
On mudslinging during electioneering by top leaders of the BJP and the Congress, Badal said this trend was highly derogatory and should be condemned by one and all. "Throughout my political career, I have never attacked anyone personally," he said, adding that this practice must be stopped because it generated hatred and hostility among political parties as well as voters.
On bringing electoral reforms to ensure transparency in the funding of political parties, the CM said he would welcome such reforms because the SAD was a votary of clean politics based on true democratic values.
When asked about the probability of seat-swapping between the SAD and the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he said if the two alliance partners felt the need for it, the matter could be settled amicably.
Earlier, the CM and other Akali leaders paid tributes to Subedar Kartar Singh. Badal lauded the role of the Rakhra family in social service and uplift of the area.
The CM also paid homage to former cabinet minister and senior Akali leader Raja Narinder Singh at Nabha and unveiled a statue at Rohti Pul.
Prominent among those present on the occasion were Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, cabinet ministers Ajit Singh Kohar and Surjit Singh Rakhra, besides the latter's brothers Darshan Singh Dhaliwal and Charanjeet Singh Dhaliwal, Punjabi University vice-chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh and Patiala mayor Amarinder Bajaj.
Land grab: 'won't spare guilty'
Commenting on unauthorised ownership of shamlat land, as revealed in the justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal report, Badal said the entire matter was being looked into by the state government so that the guilty involved in land grab could be brought to book. When asked why the state government was persistently pursuing Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa's case but not taking any action against chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma, Badal said any leader belonging to any political party would not be spared at any cost, howsoever powerful and well-connected he may be because the land of the law was the same for every citizen of the country.