Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday accused the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine of “badly damaging” the economy of Punjab in its past ten years in power.
“The fiscal situation in Punjab under the SAD-BJP government has been mismanaged in an unprecedented manner,” Singh said after releasing the Congress manifesto for Punjab polls at the party headquarters in Delhi.
The 120-page manifesto, drafted after six months of consultations with the people from all walks of life, was simultaneously released in Delhi, Chandigarh and five other cities in Punjab.
Singh released the manifesto in the presence of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, party leader in-charge of Punjab Asha Kumari, party general secretary Ambika Soni, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and party’s communication department head Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Punjab goes to polls on February 4. The state will see a multi-cornered contest though the three main political players in the fray are the Congress, SAD-BJP combine and the Aam Aadmi Party, which is contesting the Punjab assembly elections for the first time.
The party’s poll document promises to “undo the damage” done by the ruling coalition in the past 10 years.
“Punjab has been a victim of terrorism which inflicted great deal of damage on economy and polity,” the former PM said. “Punjab is a state with tremendous potential which has not been exploited because of mismanagement by the SAD-BJP coalition government.”
The challenge before Punjab is to “rise above all this din” and give the people a better tomorrow, Singh said and maintained that the recall of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 banknotes will be a key issue in Punjab and other poll-bound states. “Demonetisation will badly affect economy and the GDP growth of the country,” he insisted.
Singh claimed the Congress, under the leadership of Amarinder, will undo all the damage and set a new pathway for a better tomorrow. “It will ensure that the state has a higher per-capita Income, better distribution of income, better employment prospects and better infrastructure,” he said.
Giving details about the manifesto, Amarinder said the Congress government will seek to end the rampant drug menace in four weeks after coming to power.
“We will launch a programme to provide jobs to every 55 lakh households in Punjab. The chief minister’s office will monitor what jobs are needed. Till jobs are available, we will give Rs 2500 stipend to every youth,” he said.
The former Punjab chief minister said rural debt in Punjab is Rs 67,000 crore and his party is planning to take over debt of every farmer and negotiate with banks as part of its promise to waive of loans to debt-ridden farmers.
Attacking the Akali Dal government, Amarinder reiterated that his party will take over a deficit state. “Government is operating by selling land and mortgaging buildings, including old age homes,” he claimed. “We will include a Re 1 cess per bottle of alcohol, which directly will service our requirement to provide for social commitments,” Singh said.
The five main poll promises made by the party are:
* Zero-tolerance policy for drug smugglers, peddlers, police officials, politicians, bureaucrats or public indulging in narcotics trafficking. The party has also vowed to confiscate properties of drug dealers within 30 days of assuming power.
* Loan waiver to farmers, increase in crop compensation and crop insurance --- apart from raising ex-gratia to Rs 10 lakh to families of debt-ridden farmers who committed suicide.
* One lakh taxis and other commercial vehicles per year to be provided to unemployed youth at subsidised rates besides a job to every household.
* End the VIP culture by abolishing red beacon lights except on emergency vehicles, 90% cut in security personnel for politicians and officials and a two-year ban on foreign travel except where mandatory.
* A free house or 5 marla land to homeless Dalits, OBCs and minorities with annual income less than Rs 5 lakh, job for at least one person in every SC family, increase in reservation for OBCs from 12% to 15%, OBC reservation in educational institutions to be doubled from 5% to 10% and waiver of loans for minorities for self-employment activities.