From SYL to GST, the new Capt Amarinder-Narendra Modi bonhomie
Like Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Amarinder needs the Centre more than Congress; he has been breaking ranks with own party to support NDA far too oftenpunjab Updated: Jul 12, 2017 08:59 IST
In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. The Congress is already at unease with its Bihar ally, chief minister Nitish Kumar, cosying up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Now there seems to be new-found bonhomie between the party’s own chief minister from Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, and Modi.
On Tuesday, Amarinder called on the PM at New Delhi to seek the Centre’s support for resolving the agrarian crisis in Punjab and industrial development. He also requested the PM’s intervention to settle the Rs 31,000-crore debt resulting on account of cash credit limit (CCL).
On Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue, too, Amarinder’s stand has softened towards the Centre. He had resigned as a Lok Sabha MP in November last year after the Supreme Court gave a verdict supporting Haryana. In run-up to elections, Amarinder had announced that Punjab will not share its waters with Haryana at any cost.
On Tuesday, he welcomed the SC’s directive to hold talks with Haryana on the SYL issue. Appealing to the Centre to initiate talks at the earliest to find an amicable solution to the problem, Amarinder said in a statement: “The central government had also showed its keenness to find a consensual solution to the issue. The issue could be thrashed out by the parties involved by sitting across the table and taking into account all the aspects of the problem.”
- Debt waiver for Punjab farmers, help in resolving agrarian crisis
- Both state and Centre should bear ₹31,000-crore debt burden on account of cash credit limit (CCL)
- Central agencies be instructed to increase efforts for solving sacrilege cases and killings of RSS and Shiv Sena leaders
- Funds for meeting cost of raising two Indian Reserve Battalions, sanctioned by the Union ministry of home affairs in 2016 for strengthening border management in the state
- Extension of the security related expenditure (SRE) scheme, currently being implemented in Naxal-affected states, to Punjab in view of “large-scale attempts to destabilise the state and perpetrate disharmony”.
- Strengthening intelligence infrastructure in the border state
- Monitoring of social media to curb its misuse
- Deployment of two Central Armed Police Forces companies at high-security jails in Punjab, where hardcore terrorists and dreaded gangsters are lodged. He said Punjab was willing to provide an equal number of IRB companies to the Centre in exchange.
The Opposition SAD was quick to hit out at the CM with former CM Parkash Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Badal questioning Amarinder’s stand to put “waters of Punjab on the negotiating table”.
But Amarinder needs Modi to bail out his government from “inherited” financial crisis, debt waiver promised to farmers, bring in new industry, and most importantly, on the contentious issue of the SYL canal. Many in the Congress also attribute the warmth in ties to ongoing investigation into allegations of Swiss bank accounts against Amarinder and his family. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids at Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s residence is a ready reckoner.
THIRD MEETING WITH PM
Interestingly, this is Amarinder’s third meeting with the PM since forming the government in March this year.
In less than a month of taking over as the CM, Amarinder had met Modi seeking debt waiver for Punjab farmers.
In April, he again called on Modi, this time to seek permission to sell Punjab’s surplus power to Pakistan or Nepal.
In May, Amarinder hailed Major Leetul Gogoi’s action of using a Kashmiri as a human shield against stone pelters and the army’s decision to honour him. Amarinder had written that Gogoi deserved to be given a distinguished services medal for the feat.
PARTY, CAPT NOT ON SAME PAGE
In June, as his party vice-president Rahul Gandhi described the government’s decision to usher in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) through a midnight session of the Parliament’s Central Hall a “gimmick”, saying it was being “rushed through in a half-baked way with a self-promotional spectacle”, Amarinder was all for the GST.
The CM called it a progressive tax that will highly benefit Punjab. On objections of the party, he had first said the Congress was only opposed to the event. He had later added that the Congress was also opposed to the multiple tax slabs and wanted the rate of tax to be capped to 18%.
However, when in the Opposition, Amarinder used to take frequent digs at former CM Parkash Singh Badal’s visits to then PM Dr Manmohan Singh. In run-up to the elections, Amarinder had said Badal must have realised that Manmohan was a better PM than Modi and a well-wisher of Punjab as he never let Badal come back empty-handed and always put something into his “begging bowl”.
When out of power, the grouse of Congressmen in Punjab was that Dr Manmohan Singh was “generous” towards Badal. Amarinder himself had once written to Manmohan not to attend the inauguration of the Virasat-e-Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib and Manmohan had heeded his advice.