In Punjab’s polarised politics, the principal players on opposite poles seldom, if ever, agree on anything.
Friday was different.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh — who regularly make headlines for ridiculing each other — shared a common platform for the first time.
The wonderful occasion: Leaderspeak@HT, an initiative of Hindustan Times to tap into the minds of political stakeholders and thought leaders from diverse fields to build a “Vision 2020 for Punjab”.
Even though Badal and Capt Singh tried to score several political brownie points over each other, there were many moments of consensus between the rivals.
The two agreed on several issues — continuity in policy-making, particularly industrial policy and in core sectors such as health and education; transparency and accountability in the state bureaucracy, the need to take on the problem of pollution head on; and to restore Punjab’s past glory and once again make it the country’s leading state. Putting behind their differences, the duo also agreed not to politicise decision-making.
Though the Punjab Congress chief criticised the SAD-BJP government on various fronts before spelling out his vision for 2020, Badal said he did not want to make the discussion a “political slanging match”.
“I am not going to get into a political speech and have no personal agenda,” Badal said.
He went on to make a PowerPoint presentation, reeling off numbers to back his government’s achievements.
“It’s a rare moment. The two (Badal and Amarinder) are together on one platform and thinking about Punjab. The thought process has changed. It should have been done 10 years ago,” SAD legislator Bikramjit Singh Majithia said.
Eminent economist and Planning Commission deputy chairman YK Alagh, Bharti Enterprises managing director Rakesh Bharti Mittal and Trident Group CEO Rajinder Gupta were the other panelists.