In light of the recent strained relations between the alliance partners - Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP -- over a range of issues, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said the alliance was inseparable, everlasting and there was no question of parting ways with the BJP.
Badal was addressing the members of the Chandigarh Press Club on its 35th foundation day here.
In the past, there have been indications from the saffron party of going it alone in the 2017 assembly elections. But dispelling all doubt, Badal said the SAD and BJP would jointly contest the elections.
"No one can foresee the results, but on the basis of the superb performance of the SAD-BJP alliance, I am hopeful of our bright prospects in the state assembly polls," Badal said, brushing aside any challenge from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.
Reiterating his commitment to communal harmony and brotherhood, Badal said he would guarantee peace in the state till his last breath. The chief minister said maintaining peace is the topmost priority of his government. Justifying the credentials of the Shiromani Akali Dal as a secular party, Badal said nine Hindu candidates, a Muslim and 22 Scheduled Caste candidates had been elected on its party ticket in the 2012 assembly elections.
Badal was at his candid best while replying to questions from journalists. When asked as to how he would reconcile his political and business interests, Badal said, "It will be judged by the public."
On shifting of Sikh prisoners Devinderpal Singh Bhullar and Gurdeep Singh Khaira to the state jails, Badal said they didn't pose any threat to peace in Punjab and the state government had followed the due procedure. "Apprehensions of threat to peace in the state are out of question," he said.
He advised mediapersons to keep a restraint while reporting on sensitive issues and not to create unnecessary hype. He told them to play a constructive role and be objective and fair.
Urging the media to highlight major development activities and welfare schemes, Badal asked them to focus on agriculture, education and health in rural sector and project a bright picture.
Earlier, Chandigarh press club president Balwinder Jammu urged the chief minister to announce a monthly pension, cashless hospitalisation, increased free travel facility and a fixed quota for journalists of plots and apartments in housing schemes of the state government. To this, Badal asked the public relations director to chalk out the modalities. The chief minister also announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the club.
On Rupnagar accident
Badal clarified that the state government had paid no compensation to the family of the victim of the Rupnagar accident. There were reports that the victims' family had been paid Rs 22.5 lakh.
Badal accepted that the farmers were frustrated as the crops had failed. He said farmers needed to be compensated. "The state government can't do much as the support price for crops and other policies related to agriculture are formulated by the Centre," he said.
Seemingly upset over the state's name being dragged into the drug trade, Badal said there are no drugs in Punjab as heroin comes from Afghanistan and opium and poppy husk from Rajasthan. "How can anyone say Punjab is indulging in drug trade?" he asked.
Bains' book on Punjab
Advised by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal against writing a book on him, his media adviser Harcharan Bains told the media that he was writing a book that is a political and philosophical take on the robust and tragic history of Punjab since 1935. "Badal has been shy of publicity and has always put the spotlight on the state and government rather than on him. The chief minister has been uncomfortable about an authorised biography of him. I know where his advice is coming from and fully respect that," Bains said.