After four days of going around Punjab, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday claimed he now knew the state better than its ruling Badal family and state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh.
In more than 12 programmes organised by traders, industrialists, and non-resident Indians (NRIs) in Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts, he sold them the dream of “prosperity under Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rule”. “We can win even by staging rallies before (the 2017) assembly polls. But we want to study Punjab closely. I am roaming its streets for the past four days to find out what your sufferings are. Amarinder and the Badals calls me an outsider but let me tell you that I now know Punjab better than them,” the AAP national convener said in his address to industrialists in a Jalandhar hotel, adding: “Other parties impose policies on you; we’d have you make those.”
He said the AAP was coming out with Punjab Dialogue with stakeholders to gather feedback about their grievances and their suggestions for the party’s election manifesto. “I am astonished that a huge number of industrial units shut down in Punjab because of bad governance and extortion under inspector raj. In Delhi also, the situation was not different before we came, but now look at the difference we have made in one year, because we took business community into confidence and curbed unnecessary raids,” he added.
In another interactive session with prominent industrialists of Jalandhar, he heard businessmen rue about the growing corruption, high electricity tariff, non-payment of value-added-tax (VAT) refunds, and poor infrastructure at focal points. The NRIs at AAP’s office in Chaheru told him about their “harassment by the state government” and how “Akali goons” had grabbed their property. “We want to build our Punjab by adopting villages, but the state government is creating hindrances,” a Canadian NRI told him on behalf of his group. Former Canadian minister Harb Dhaliwal, who belongs to Chaheru, had organised the function.
“The NRIs have a big role to play in building Punjab,” said Kejriwal, adding: “If the AAP forms the government in the state, it will work with them for the prosperity of their motherland. We’ll make Punjab the best investment destination in the country.” He also made an appeal to the industrialists and NRIs for financial support to the party. “Hum toh fakhar log hain, aapke sehyog se hee sab kuchh hoga (We are broke and we need your support to deliver),” he said.
At Kapurthala’s Dhilwan town, Kejriwal first went to the house of a rickshaw-puller, Somnath, who had committed suicide over not getting pension from the state government. “Help us form an honest government in Punjab and help you,” he told Somnath’s family. He also watched a video clip of Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bibi Jagir Kaur, in which she is heard saying that suicides are good for the poor, as the victim family gets financial help. At Bajajan, he met the families of the victims of an accident, in which a mini truck carrying devotees from the village had fallen into a gorge on the Himachal Pradesh border near Hoshiarpur two years ago.”
During the interaction with Arvind Kejriwal, Jalandhar’s leading sports industrialist PC Sondhi asked him not to follow the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) model of self-publicity through advertisements. “What the SAD does in Punjab, people don’t expect you to do in Delhi,” said Sondhi. Kejriwal did not reply.