Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal held a meeting and had high tea with the chamber of industries in Ludhiana on Friday. But an earlier meeting of Ludhiana industry with Congress candidate Ravneet Bittu had cost them dear. The very next day, the Punjab Pollution Control Board officials were quick to call up heads of industrial units, mainly those which remain on its radar for pollution, to “invite” them to visit Bhilwara in Rajasthan for seeing zero-discharge waste treatment plants.
In Amritsar, the seat witnessing a nerve-wracking contest between Capt Amarinder Singh of the Congress and BJP’s Arun Jaitley, leading industrialists and businessmen are facing a piquant situation. With the Election Commission watching, BJP minister Anil Joshi is asking them to host dinners for Jaitley.
Suneet Kochhar, director of Khanna Paper Mills, who is close to the top SAD-BJP leadership, is asking businessmen to rally behind Jaitley.
The message is loud and clear: host high tea or dinner and invite the city’s who’s who to rub shoulders with the BJP stalwart to know his vision for Amritsar.
“It is compulsive and I have been asked to host a dinner next week,” said an industrialist. So far, Sanjay Maheshwari, a leading businessman having a chain of educational institutes and hospitals; Dr Avtar Singh, leading orthopedic surgeon of Amandeep Hospital; and a businessman from the cloth industry have hosted the dinners.
“The idea is to strike a personal chord with leading citizens, who are also opinion-makers in the city,” said a BJP strategist.
In the last fortnight, a team of eight industrialists -- six from Ludhiana and two from Amritsar -- visited Bhilwara, a major textile hub of the country with many spinning mills, and the neighbouring tourist city of Udaipur.
Accompanied by two officials of PPCB -- Rajkumar, Ludhiana executive engineer, and a Patiala executive engineer -- the industry was allegedly shown both carrot and stick.
“We told the PPCB that there was no point undertaking the trip as setting up zero-discharge plants was not possible in Ludhiana. On reaching Bhilwara, we were shown a few factories.
The officials told us that the SAD-BJP government is in state for another three years and we would invite benefits or trouble depending on who we and our factory workers supported in the elections.
We have also been asked to put up boards supporting the ruling party candidate in our factories,” said an industrialist from Ludhiana, requesting anonymity. He said they were asked to foot their own bills.
Admitting that a few industrialists were taken to Bhilwara 10-12 days ago, PPCB Ludhiana executive engineer Rajkumar said the pollution board undertook such trips in routine for showing working of treatment plants to industry. “We took a few people from the dyeing industry to Kanchan group of industries and other textile mills in Bhilwara after which they stayed in Udaipur.
The PPCB officials and the industrialists footed their respective bills as it was an educational trip,” he said, denying the industrialists were asked to support the ruling party candidates.
PPCB member secretary Babu Ram, when contacted, contended it was not a poll code violation as the trip was not sponsored by the PPCB. “We paid for the expenses of our of ficers.
If I have to go somewhere, I cannot be stopped because of the poll code. As for the Bhilwara trip, I have not been briefed by my officials so far as they are on poll duty,” he said.
A few days ago, brick kiln owners and Amritsar dyeing industry had extended its support to Jaitley. Both these industries remain on the radar of the pollution board owing to high levels of discharge of pollutants.