Out of power in Punjab for ten years, Congress promised a host of freebies on Monday like farm loan waiver and free power, smart phones, textbooks and doles to unemployed youth in the election manifesto for the state released on Monday. Releasing the manifesto, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh charged the Akali-BJP government with “misusing” governance in the last ten years and said Capt Amarinder Singh’s leadership is “badly needed” in the state to exploit the state’s tremendous potential.
“The challenge before Punjab is to rise above all this din and recognise that the people of Punjab need a better tomorrow. This election manifesto is a forward looking visionary document, which promises the people that we will undo the damage done to the Punjab economy by the State government in the last ten years,” he said.
Hailing Amarinder, Manmohan said he is a leader of great vision who has a wealth of experience and commitment to the cause of development in Punjab. He said Punjab’s fiscal situation has been bad under the Akalis as the state has inflicted great damage on the economy and polity of Punjab being a victim of terrorism. “Amarinder’s government will undo all this damage and set a new pathway for a better tomorrow which will see that people will have. A higher per-capita Income, better distribution of Income, better employment prospects and better infrastructure,” Manmohan Singh said.
The manifesto promises loan waiver and free power to farmers, wiping out of drug trade within a month, stipend of Rs 2,500 per month to unemployed youth, free smart mobile phones to youth and free textbooks to all children.
Amarinder Singh announced that the state would generate as many as 25 lakh jobs within the next five years so as to provide employment to all youth in the state. He also promised to crackdown on drugs and corruption, and bring a new industrial policy within 90 days, besides promising an end to VIP culture, bring sweeping economic reforms and total transparency in governance. He also promised free houses to homeless dalits/SCs/OBCs and one job in every family.
He lamented that the growth rate of Punjab was down at 5.6%, against the national average of 7.3%, and that the state has slided from number one position to number 19 under Akalis. “We are in a very bad shape,” he said. On the contentious SYL Canal issue, he insisted there was no additional water in Punjab and that when the Assembly will be convened a law will be passed for not sharing any of the state’s waters. “We are not for not giving. But, we don’t have it (to share),” he said when asked about it.
Asked specifically if Amarinder was the chief ministerial candidate, AICC Secretary in-charge Asha Kumari said, “He is officially president, who is leading the party in the polls”. Manmohan said Amarinder Singh’s commitment to the cause of development of Punjab is “unrivalled”. “I believe that Punjab is in for better times under the leadership of Amarinder. This better tomorrow will see development of State both in economy and management of polity. The fiscal situation in Punjab under the SAD-BJP government has been mismanaged in a manner which is unprecedented,” he said.
The manifesto promises to redeem Punjab’s lost honour and to restore its rightful place and announced to free the state and its people from the shackles of Badal government on the state’s resources, which it alleged has been marked by widespread corruption, lawlessness, mafia rule and nepotism. The manifesto also vowed to bring in total transparency in governance as well as all financial and political systems through innovative initiatives and out-of-the-box measures.
The manifesto is being launched in Chandigarh and five other cities in Punjab as well. Amarinder said the manifesto has taken six months and the team led by former deputy chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal visited places across the state and met people of all walks of life and got inputs from former Prime Minister Singh. “We will be taking over a deficit state. Government is operating by selling land and mortgaging buildings, including old age homes. Some funds like Mandi Board have been mortgaged for seven years. Nevertheless, we have made a comprehensive manifesto. We have covered every facet of Punjab.
“Rural debt in Punjab is Rs 67,000 crore. We are planning to take over debt of every farmer and negotiate with banks. We will negotiate how we will service the debt and how we will repay the loan. This ordinarily should be the job of the government of India. We are committed with doing away with farm debt. We will manage this situation by thinking innovatively,” he said.
Noting that this is his last election, Amarinder said, “For 47 years, I have been in politics and this is my last election. I am not going to fight again. People know that what I say, I fulfil.”
Amarinder said the party has included a Re 1 cess per bottle of alcohol, “which directly serviced our requirement to provide for social commitments”.
Talking about the programme of providing jobs in every family, he said, “We will monitor what jobs are needed. This will be overseen from Chief Minister’s Office. Till jobs are available we will give Rs 2500 stipend to every youngster. Drugs is the first thing we will attack and in four weeks we will end this drug menace in Punjab.”
Announcing other measures, he said, “We will provide affordable electricity. If we want industry to come to Punjab then we have to give a level playing field. We will reduce power tariff to industry from Rs 7.60 down to Rs 5.00. We will pool land, purchased at market rates, which we will give to industries which guarantee jobs.”
Amarinder dismissed suggestions that his promise to provide jobs to all unemployed in the state was like the Rs 15-lakh in all accounts promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “People know what I promise, I do fulfil them,” he said. A crackdown on drugs and a series of wide-ranging new legislation to control important administrative and legal functions, time-bound steps to bolster employment and revive agriculture and industry, ending of VVIP culture, bringing the marginalized and minorities back into the societal mainstream, are the key highlights of the 120-page manifesto. The manifesto also addressed in detail, issues concerning government employees, education institutions and teachers, healthcare system and the media.
The manifesto includes a 10 page chargesheet against the Badal regime, exposing the alleged “Loot, Boot & Shoot” policy of the SAD-BJP government that also lists out the multiple failures of the Akali “misrule” of past 10 years. The chargesheet is led by a section on ‘Family First the family comes first while the state goes to dumps’ and underlines ‘Why it’s imperative for the people of Punjab to rid themselves of a decade of SAD-BJP misrule’.