Candidates of three political parties — Congress’ Manpreet Badal, Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) Deepak Bansal and Sarup Chand Singla of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — shared a stage during a debate organised by the Swami Vivekanand study circle at the SSD Girls’ College in Bathinda on Saturday.
In a two- hour debate, the candidates faced tough questions from students over drugs, women safety, caste-based reservation, revival of economy, unemployment and democracy within the party structure.
In a jam-packed auditorium, the candidates also presented their respective views on why young voters should vote in favour of them and their respective parties.
However, Manpreet reiterated the Congress’ contribution in India’s freedom struggle and reviving the country’s economy, besides Punjab’s development by constructing the Bhakra Dam and Punjab Agricultural University in the past. AAP’s Deepak focused on the party’s idea of changing the system and society.
The SAD’s Singla banked upon achievements of the SAD-BJP government during the past 10 years.
Over questions related to unemployment and privatisation of education, the Congress and the AAP cornered the SAD and held it responsible for both these problems.
“The SAD government only did commercialisation of education during its tenure of 10 years. The poor policies of the state government multiplied the issue of unemployment in the state,” said Deepak.
Meanwhile, Manpreet viewed that the lack of private investment in the state has made highly qualified students to work in other states for greener pastures.
“The government is bankrupt, therefore there is no scope of government jobs for youth in Punjab. Private investment must be encouraged to create jobs in the private sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, the students raised the issue that even though the political parties claimed of 33% reservation, but when it came to giving tickets to women, their claims fell flat.
“The Congress has given ticket to only 10 women candidates, while the AAP and the SAD to just nine and seven, respectively,” one of the students mentioned.
Consensus over liquor ban in state
However, the candidates managed to build a consensus over liquor ban after the students raised issues of the state’s economy running on liquor business.
Anoop Kaur and Mandeep Kaur, both students, raised questions related to claims of the Congress’ and the AAP in solving the drug problem within four months of acquiring power. One of the students cornered AAP candidate Deepak over the allegations of drug addiction against one of the senior leaders of his party.
When asked about liquor ban in the state on the lines of Bihar, the trio said “The parties are ready for liquor ban, but the issue needs a long term planning so as to analyse pros and cons of the ban effect.”
Over woman safety, the congress and AAP held lack of professionalism and politicisation of police responsible behind safety concerns for women.
Meanwhile, Yashika, a student, raised question related to traffic problem in Bathinda, while another student Manu Tuli, mentioned failure of respective political outfits in censoring Punjabi songs and videos, in which the women were projected in bad light.
Lalit Mahajan, general secretary of study centre, moderated the debate.