'Why should allies interfere in BJP's choice of PM candidate?'

Sukhbir BadalSukhbir Singh Badal

Unlike the JD(U) which has sought a "secular" prime ministerial candidate, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is willing to support whoever the BJP selects.

Speaking at the Express Adda organised in Mumbai on Tuesday, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said, "BJP is the largest party of the NDA and it is their right to decide who the prime ministerial candidate should be. Why should the allies interfere?"

Describing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a "very fine man... dynamic and decisive", Badal said, "we have sent our teams to Gujarat a number of times to learn the best practices followed by that state."

However, he said "nobody can replace" former prime minister A B Vajpayee. "I think we need to preserve the qualities of the old leadership. Their commitment to the cause and struggle cannot be found in the current leadership," he said.

Seen as a reformist leader who talks more governance and less government, Badal spoke of a number of reforms adopted by Punjab to cut red tape and corruption. Punjab has switched to e-tendering for every single government purchase, whether big or small, he said.

On the decline of Punjab's visibility, Badal said: "Punjab had a very bad phase of slowdown. Being landlocked by Pakistan and the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, it does not attract enough investors." However, he added that the debt to GSDP ratio of Punjab has come down from 49 pc to 31 pc in the last five years.

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