Hoping to promote Narendra Modi as the next prime minister of the country, state Bharatiya Janata Party chief Kamal Sharma on Sunday invited his 'hundreds of friends' from the social networking website Facebook for an interactive session at Hotel President here, but had to face a volley of uncomfortable questions, especially on taxes.
An HT team managed to attend the programme 'Face-to-face interaction with Facebook friends', which was strictly off-limits for the media. The session started with a slideshow projecting Modi as the prime minister, by raking up several issues, including the UPA government's scams and its failure to control price rise, terrorism, rupee devaluation and the increasing incidences of cow slaughter.
However, Sharma appeared uncomfortable when the question-answer session started, as most queries were about imposition of "high taxes on the urban class", and "freebies for the rural masses".
'Taxes to claim Centre grants'
When a 'friend' asked why the BJP, the alliance partner in the state government, always remained silent in spite of imposition of high taxes like property tax and advance tax, a visibly uncomfortable Sharma replied, "It is wrong that the BJP never objected to imposition of taxes on plot holders of illegal colonies and property tax. It was only after the BJP's intervention that the state lowered the tax rate."
However, trying to justify the imposition of taxes, Sharma claimed that these were necessary to claim grants from the Centre, which demands tax returns before giving grants.
'BJP preferred to stay in the background'
Replying to a person asking why the BJP could not get the post of deputy chief minister in the ruling alliance, which later went to SAD, Sharma said, "While the state leadership took a strong stand on the issue, the final say came from the national leadership of the party, which preferred to stay in the background."
On freebies to the rural sector in the form of free power to the agriculture sector, Sharma said, "The BJP always took up the issue with the Shiromani Akali Dal in a strong manner, and a consensus was reached, but it is yet to be seen when and how these freebies are withdrawn."
Taking a u-turn later, Sharma told HT that free power to the agriculture sector was promised in poll manifestoes of both SAD and BJP.
Regarding the imposition of advance tax, which was strongly opposed by the business community, Sharma said, "The SAD never took the BJP into confidence before its imposition, and I have already raised the issue before chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday morning."
However, on Friday afternoon, the CM, during his visit to the city, had denied that the BJP leadership ever met him on the issue of advance tax.
Asked whether he had opposed the advance tax, he said, "No, we have not opposed it, but want and amicable solution after discussion with the business community."
Sharma mum on clemency for Rajoana
Though he raked up the issue of terrorism in the slideshow promoting Modi, Kamal Sharma preferred to remain mum on the issue of the SAD advocating clemency for Balwant Singh Rajoana, assassin of former chief minister Beant Singh, and on the recent 'Freedom March' of hard-core Sikh organisations glorifying photographs of Sikh militants.