Poll fever grips Punjab as Cong, AAP vie to woo the common man

While the ruling Congress and the main opposition party, the AAP, are vying with each other to woo the common man, the SAD has geared up by announcing almost all its candidates who are already campaigning. The saffron party too has its plans drawn up in the poll-bound Punjab, reports Rajesh Moudgil

Dubbed as “Mission Punjab’’, the recent visits of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal during which he made major promises for women, teachers, and traders’ community, has heightened the poll tempo in the state ahead of assembly elections due in February, next year.

The ruling Congress, which recently saw bad blood within the party that led to the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi as the state’s first Dalit CM, also seems to be striving to woo the common man and plug loopholes in governance. The other players in the fray including the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too have their plans drawn up.

Besides major promises including free medical treatment to all, free power supply up to 300 units to all domestic consumers, Kejriwal has now promised Rs 1,000 monthly allowance to all women aged above 18 years. During another visit, he promised regularisation of the jobs of all temporary teachers besides announcing various schemes for the traders and businessmen, such as abolishing `inspector raj’, fixing VAT refunds, ensuring power supply and improving the law and order situation.

Whipping up a war of words with the state chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, he asked the people (without naming Channi) to be aware of the “nakli Kejriwal’’ (a fake Kejriwal) who, he held, only imitated the promises made by him (Kejriwal) and had not been taking any action to fulfil them.

Interestingly, Kejriwal lauded state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu saying that Sidhu’s courage must be commended. He referred to a meeting in which Sidhu pointed out false claims of Channi. Kejriwal also said that Sidhu is raising issues of the people but the Congress is suppressing him.

However, Kejriwal has so far ducked queries on the chief minister’s face as he says that if any party gives the face of the chief minister before the elections, the election campaign goes up and that is why the face of the chief minister is announced at a later stage. “But I must make it clear that the face of the CM in Punjab will not be Arvind Kejriwal’’, he has told media.

Channi tears into ‘nakli Kejriwal’ jibe 

The Punjab chief minister Channi had lost no time after taking over as the chief minister about three months ago to call himself as the “aam aadmi’’ and his government as the “aam aadmi sarkar’’. He has also made a slew of major promises on various fronts such as to eliminate the sand, drug mafia, giving free power, creating and regularisation of jobs, besides others.

He has torn into Kejriwal for his “nakli Kejriwal’’ remark and held that his government has already done whatever AAP has promised it would do if elected.

He has also taken on the Akalis and held that the transport and cable businesses were owned by the Badal family and that people needn’t pay more than Rs 100 per month now to cable operators. He said that all illegal bus permits would be revoked.

Promising that all the sanitation workers working in the municipal councils and corporations would be regularised and there would be no condition of 10-year service rule, he has also said that the contract system for recruitment would be scrapped.

Having handed over appointment letters of government jobs to the next of kin of five farmers who died during the farmers’ agitation, he has also accepted the majority of the demands of 32 farmers’ unions and the BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) barring the agri-loan waiver.

The key demands of the BKU accepted by Channi include cancellation of FIRs against farmers for stubble burning and protesting against farm laws, enhancing the compensation for pink bollworm-hit cotton growers, jobs to the kin of farmers who died during the farm stir, besides others.

SAD candidates fan out across state

Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which has an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has announced more than 80 candidates who are already in their respective constituency campaigning.

The SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has also made major poll promises including Rs 2,000 per month to all women heads of blue cardholder families (below poverty line) besides a Rs 10 per litre reduction in the price of diesel for agriculture consumers, provision of power at the rate of Rs 5 per unit for industry and an interest-free loan of Rs 10 lakh for students.

Other major promises include free power up to 400 units per month to all households and doing away with outstanding residential bills of all blue card holders and restoration of all connections of BPL families.

The SAD president also announced that 1 lakh new jobs would be created in the government sector and that 10 lakh new jobs in the private sector, if elected. He also announced that all contractual employees including safai workers would be regularised.

BJP decides to go it alone

After the SAD snapped ties with it early this year, the BJP announced that it would go alone to polls on all the 117 seats. The saffron party has also announced that if voted to power it would have a Dalit chief minister.

However, Dushyant Gautam, Rajya Sabha member, who is Punjab BJP in-charge has told media, that it could have a tie-up with like-minded parties, though on its own conditions.

On the issue pertaining to promises made by AAP leader Kejriwal, Gautam said that the people of Punjab sought to know whether the promises already made by Kejriwal for Delhi people had been fulfilled. Asking the Kejriwal government to first start Rs 1,000 allowance for women in Delhi, he said that contrary to Kejriwal’s promises, neither CCTVs had been installed there, nor the travel in Metro had been made free for women to this day, he said.

Meanwhile, the party has also held a couple of meetings with senior Central leaders since Central minister Gajendra Shekhawat has been appointed as election in-charge in Punjab.