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Where are your laptops, Mr Badal?

chandigarh Updated: May 02, 2012 11:35 IST
Manpreet Randhawa
Manpreet Randhawa
Hindustan Times
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"The SAD-BJP government would start giving unemployment allowance to jobless youth, free laptops to students and Rs 2 lakh free medical care to the poor from March itself and decision to this effect will be taken in the first (cabinet) meeting of the (new) government" - Parkash Singh Badal, January 24, 2012.

Nearly two months after his government was formed and five cabinet meetings later, the laptops are nowhere to be found. Nor has the Parkash Singh Badal government kept its other promises - to be implemented after the "first cabinet meeting" - including free medical care worth Rs 2 lakh to the poor and unemployment allowances for the jobless.

In fact, sources familiar with what transpired in the five cabinet meetings - the last was held on Monday - said that the issue of fulfilling poll promises hardly came up for discussion.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) released its Punjab assembly election manifesto on January 22 in Ludhiana where Sukhbir Singh Badal unleashed the party agenda with a plethora of promises. The SAD president said the promises, once implemented, would change the course of development in Punjab and take the state to new heights.

Chief minister Badal in his January 24 statement also promised other educational and welfare measures, including enhancement of the 'shagun' amount from Rs 15,000 to Rs 31,000 in the first meeting of the new cabinet

"We have always treated our manifesto as a sacred document and our record in the matter is proof of this approach," the chief minister had then said.

Appealing to people to vote for the SAD-BJP alliance as this was going to be his last tenure as chief minister, Badal had said, "I have a record to live up to in this regard. We have never faulted on our promises to the people nor lingered on in unnecessary delay in such matters. For me, these are issues of personal credibility and the people of the state have always known what to expect from me."

Asked about the SAD's promises and the timeline to fulfil them, Sukhbir said on Tuesday that the SAD would deliver everything it had promised to the people of Punjab. "It may take two to three years. We are not even thinking of fulfilling these promises in five years," the deputy chief minister said. "The state is in good financial health. We are going to take some historic decisions and some of those have already been taken."

However, contrary to what Sukhbir says, there is a question mark over the viability of some of the promises given the state's fiscal health. "The Akalis made the promises during the polls simply to outsmart their political opponents without realising their financial implications," said a senior Punjab IAS officer, requesting anonymity. "The abolition of octroi on petrol and diesel has further diminished the state's coffers."

Leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar said it was unfortunate that the Akalis were "dithering" in fulfilling their poll promises. He said the Congress would not let the Akalis get away with not fulfilling promises made to the state's people.