Fissures within Punjab’s SAD-BJP coalition were apparent again in a blame game between senior ministers. In a damning statement, BJP veteran and industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal on Thursday blamed finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the SAD for the denial of a special financial package to Punjab by the BJP-led central government.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who had lost the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar, reportedly rejected Punjab’s appeal for a package and rather suggested an end the free electricity being given to the farmers.
“The Union finance minister has done no wrong. Actually, our case to get the special package was not properly represented and thus failed to get proper response from the Centre. Ground realities showing why Punjab needs special assistance was not projected the way they should have been,” Mittal said here in response to a question. “If the chief minister (Parkash Singh Badal) had pleaded the case, the result would have been different for sure,” he added.
Mittal, who was here to inaugurate a Common Facility Centre at the Leather Complex, said CM Badal’s demand for a special package was justified as “Punjab should be treated as a special category state having suffered huge financial and social losses because of terrorism”.
He also supported Badal’s stand that the state government would not end power subsidy. “The CM is the head of our family (SAD-BJP) in Punjab, and whatever he has said is absolutely right.
Agriculture in Punjab is already running in heavy losses and farmers cannot survive without the support of the government. I must say, the representation of the case of special package could have been better,” he said.
When questioned that even the state BJP had been demanding that power subsidy given to farmers be “rationalised” to relieve pressure of taxes on urbanites, Mittal termed it “a wrong perception”.
“There should be no rural-urban divide in Punjab. Even agriculture has become industry now, and it is important to save it,” said Mittal, who said the SAD-BJP leadership would “together” again plead the case of a special package before PM Narendra Modi and Jaitley.
Punjab has sought a special package from the Centre that includes, among other things, non-plan grant of Rs 5,000 crore in 2014-15, tax and other concessions to industry on a par with those applicable in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, higher minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce, and special allocation for diversification of agriculture. On June 9, Dhindsa had sought the package while presenting the agrarian state’s financial report card to Jaitley in New Delhi.
Dhindsa could not be contacted for comment despite several attempts.