Even as the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has gained majority in the Punjab assembly on its own after winning the Dhuri bypoll, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that Parkash Singh Badal will continue to be the chief minister as well as the party’s face.
Sukhbir was here on Wednesday to lay the foundation stone of the state’s first automated driving test, online licence and training centre.
When asked whether he would be elevated as CM, now that the SAD had the numbers in the House, Sukhbir said: “Parkash Singh Badal is the chief minister and would again be the CM after the 2017 assembly elections. He would also be the party’s face for the next 10-15 years, come what may.”
He further said, “Getting majority on our own doesn’t mean that we will snap ties with the BJP. Our alliance is unbreakable and it will remain intact under any circumstances.”
Sukhbir said the SAD’s victory in the bypoll was a reaffirmation of the pro-people governance of the Akali-BJP government. He said the Dhuri assembly seat had been a Congress stronghold, but the voters gave a thumping verdict in favour of the SAD this time.
Sukhbir welcomed Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement on pension of Rs 5,000 per month for farmers above the age of 60 years. On being asked about the setting up of any corpus fund for a fresh survey to get actual numbers of debt-ridden farmers who have committed suicide in the state, he said the Centre could play a vital role in this regard, addign that the matter would be taken up with the central government to chalk out a comprehensive plan.
When asked whether private bus operators, including those owned by the Badal family, were responsible for the worsening financial state of state-owned transport companies in Punjab, Sukhbir said his family was in the transport business since 1947. He said the heavy expenditure on salary, pension, gratuity and other heads of public-sector transport employees was to blame for the state of affairs. In contrast, the salaries of private bus drivers and conductors are much lower and there are also no pension and gratuity expenses, he added.
The deputy CM claimed that Punjab was the first state to provide on-the-spot driving licences within half an hour after conducting driving tests. He said this system conforming to international parameters would end red tape and delay in transport offices. As many as 32 such ultra-modern centres are being set up in the state where applicants can get driving licences without any interaction with district transport offices.