In what was planned as a rally for his formal installation as the state unit chief, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday set the stage for an all-out battle in the 2017 assembly polls by making populist promises and serving a stern warning to the Badals, with all top party leaders in tow.
Addressing a mammoth public meeting on the Goniana road here, Amarinder, pumped up by the crowd response, sprung a surprise by playing the religion card with a dramatic flourish on the home turf of the ruling family. The PPCC chief, midway through his speech, asked for water to wash his hands and requested Ramanjit Singh Sikki, who had quit the state Assembly over incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, for a Gutka Sahib.
Holding Gutka Sahib in his hand, Amarinder pledged to make Punjab a drug-free state within four weeks if the Congress comes to power in the next assembly polls. “I am taking oath from this platform to make Punjab a better state and bring an era of prosperity. I can promise that the Congress rule will end corruption in the state, create employment opportunities for jobless youth and cancel false cases registered against our workers and other people,” he said with AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed, campaign committee chief Ambika Soni and other leaders nodding in support.
Cong goes on ‘sop spree’
Unveiling a raft of promises, the PPCC chief promised to raise the old-age, widow and other social pensions to RS 2,000 per month and amount given on girl’s marriage to Rs 51,000 under the Shagun Scheme. Captain promised that free power supply to poor families would be increased to 300 units from the existing 200 on coming to power in the state.
Dismissing all talk of discontinuation of free power and atta-dal schemes as lies being spread deliberately by some people, he said the Congress would continue with these sops. “There is no value added tax (VAT) on sugar in Delhi and Haryana, but the Akali government imposed 11% tax. If the Congress comes to power, we will do away with this tax and also take steps to stop auction of land of farmers for loan default,” the former CM said at the ‘Badlav’ rally, rattling off promises that are usually made by political parties in election manifestoes.
Besides promising subsidised land and power to attract new investors and check the flight of industry from the state, Amarinder said the Congress would also throw open the broadcasting market for Punjabi TV channels and bus transport business by giving route permits to cooperative societies formed by youth to take them out of control of the Badal clan.
“Bus transport, sand, liquor, television and several other businesses are being controlled by them. I will make sure things change,” he said. There was celebratory air about the place. The jam-packed crowd first gave the new PPCC boss a rousing welcome with slogans reverberating at the venue, and then cheered his every word.
Amarinder also did not disappoint them as he teared into the Badals for “ruining the state.”