In a bid to outdo the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government in the politics of competitive populism, Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday promised to offer wheat at Re 1 a kg to over 15 lakh poor families in the state in case his party returns to power in the upcoming state assembly elections.
Significantly, the Captain’s new dole — announced at an election rally at Kharar — does not figure in a long list of populist social welfare steps that the party promised in its manifesto released two days ago.
The Congress move is clearly aimed to counter the ruling SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party government’s subsidised ‘atta-dal’ scheme giving atta (flour) and dal (pulses) at Rs 4 and Rs 20 a kg, respectively. Currently, about 15.22 lakh poor families (blue-card holders with an annual income less than Rs 30,000) are beneficiaries of the scheme that the SAD-BJP had announced before the 2007 assembly elections.
Amarinder made the grand announcement when he was refuting charges leveled by the SAD that a Congress government would cancel the atta-dal scheme and free power to agriculture sector. The ex-CM also said the Congress would provide more subsidies under the proposed Food Security Act.
“Farmers in Punjab are hungry, despite the fact that they fulfill the entire country’s food requirements. We need to support them,” he said, accepting that the minimum support prices (MSP) for wheat and paddy were “too less”.
Amarinder also rattled out figures to support his claims against the ruling combine, “This outgoing SAD-BJP government pushed 7 lakh more people below the poverty line, taking the total to 20 lakh. The overall crime graph has seen a 65% crest. That’s why 900 industrial units have downed shutters in the past five years.” Union minister Ambika Soni said during her address that during the 2002-2007 Congress regime there was “investment-friendly atmosphere” in Punjab.
“But now, people are afraid of investing in Punjab due to the situation created by the Akali-BJP government.”
Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, the Congress candidate from Kharar constituency Jagmohan Singh Kang, Chamkaur Sahib candidate Charanjit Singh Channi and SAS Nagar candidate Balbir Singh Sidhu were also present at the function.