AAP-Congress cracks widen as Punjab's Bhagwant Mann questioned over ₹50,000 crore loan row
Congress' Alok Sharma alleged that it was based on facts that when Bhagwant Mann took oath, he went to Centre seeking a financial support of ₹50,000 crore.
The cracks between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), partners in the newly formed Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), seem to have further widened as the Congress questioned the Bhagwant Mann government after governor Banwarilal Purohit sought from the state government details of utilisation of “this huge amount” of ₹50,000 crore loan.
Reacting to Purohit's letter to the Punjab government, Congress leader Alok Sharma questioned the AAP-led Punjab government on Sunday over the alleged ₹50,000 crore debt and asked it to answer why the state was facing such a situation.
“It’s based on facts that when Bhagwant Mann took oath, he immediately went to Centre seeking a financial support of ₹50,000 crore,” Sharma told news agency PTI.
He added, “AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal used to say the government will recover the money. Now the AAP government must answer why the state has such a huge loan.”
Sharma further alleged the AAP government whitewashed old buildings in Punjab and has done “the drama of creating Mohalla clinics” with the loan money. "They drowned the economy of the state,” he told PTI.
The matter came to light after Mann on Thursday urged the governor to take the issue of the pending Rural Development Fund (RDF) amounting to ₹5,637 crore with the President and the Prime Minister, to which Purohit wrote back asking the chief minister to wait for the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter.
Purohit, while acknowledging in his reply the chief minister’s request for his intervention, sought the details of the utilisation of debt of ₹50,000 crore raised by the present government during its tenure. “…the debt of the Punjab rose by about ₹50,000 crore during your regime. Details of the utilisation of this huge amount may be furnished to me so that I will be able to convince the Prime Minister that money has been properly utilised,” he said.
Responding to Purohit’s letter, Punjab’s finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema said the governor should not be talking about the state’s financial obligations as the present regime has inherited a debt of ₹3 lakh crore from the previous governments.
In a statement, Cheema said, “We have to pay thousands of crores as interest on debt of about ₹3 lakh crore that was taken by the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine and Congress governments in the past. Despite repaying the loan instalment and interest, the AAP government is doing good work for the welfare of the people of Punjab.”
No AAP-Congress alliance in Punjab?
While top AAP leaders have joined hands with the Opposition parties, including the Congress, to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Cabinet minister Anmol Gagan Maan has already announced that there would be no alliance between the ruling AAP and the Congress in the state.
Gagan Maan said the AAP would contest all 13 seats in the Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of chief minister Mann and without any seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress.
The AAP minister’s statement, which indicated that the battlelines are drawn between the state units of the two parties, is a setback to the resolve of the INDIA bloc to contest the Lok Sabha elections together.
Asked if these were her personal views, the minister said these were the views of the party and the orders of the chief minister.
On the other hand, Punjab Congress leaders have strongly opposed any truck with the ruling party in the state. The party leaders were of the view that seat sharing with AAP would be detrimental to the interests of the Congress in the state, and the workers’ sentiment was against the alliance.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said the Congress would contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab.
(With PTI inputs)