Jr Badal steps into father's shoes, elected SAD chief

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Amritsar, Jan 31 (UNI) Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal was today unanimously elected the President of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), marking the transfer of party leadership by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to his son after remaining at the helm of affairs for over 12 years.

The Junior Badal, a former Union Minister who represents the Faridkot constituency in Parliament, was elected as the President of SAD at the delegate session of the party held at Teja Singh Samundri hall in the Golden Temple complex here.

He succeeds the senior Badal, who had been heading the SAD since April 13, 1995. He also remained president of a faction of the Akali Dal from 1986-1988, after a split following differences with former Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala.

The name of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal was proposed by Rural Development Minister Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and endorsed by Cooperatives Minister Kanwaljit Singh. Senior SAD leader and Sangrur MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa seconded the proposal put forth at the delegate session by Mr Brahmpura.

Thereafter, the Junior Badal was declared elected by party general secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder amidst shouting of 'Bole Sau Nihal, Sat Shri Akal'. Mr Sukhbir Badal (45) was functioning as the Working President of the party since March last year, when the SAD-BJP came to power in Punjab.

The delegates also unanimously chose Mr Parkash Singh Badal as the patron of the party in place of the aging Akali leader Jagdev Singh Talwandi, who was also present in the session.

''I am tired, unable to shoulder the dual responsibility of Chief Ministership and party chief, so I would like someone else to take care of party affairs,'' the Senior Badal said at the start of the session, sending a clear indication to the senior party leaders present that he wanted his son to step into his shoes.

Acknowledging his elevation to the top party post, Mr Sukhbir Badal thanked the party leadership, particularly the senior leaders, and sought their blessings and cooperation, ''Guide me like your son'', he said while turning to Mr Talwandi and the other senior leaders.

The elevation of the Junior Badal is seen by Akali leaders as another step forward towards the Chief Minister's chair. Ever since the SAD-BJP came to power, Mr Sukhbir Badal has been playing an active role in running the party affairs and promoting the SAD led governments programmes and policies.

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