Punjab Election 2017: CM candidate Amarinder Singh, Manmohan release Congress manifesto

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, along with Congress leaders Amarinder Singh and Randeep Surjewala, released the party manifesto in New Delhi on Monday for the Punjab Assembly election 2017.

"Punjab is a state with tremendous unexploited potential. This potential has not been exploited because of mismanagement by the current government," said Manmohan, adding, "Earlier also, Punjab was a victim of terrorism. And it has inflicted great deal of damage on the economy and polity of Punjab. The challenge before Punjab is to rise above all this din and recognise that the people of Punjab need a better tomorrow."

"This election manifesto is a forward looking visionary document, which promises the people that we will undo the damage done to the Punjab economy by the state government in the past 10 years," said the former prime minister.

"It points to the tremendous potential of the state in terms of agriculture, manufacturing, services, infrastructure and social services. In all these areas, the present set up has not been able to make adequate use of the potential that exists in Punjab," he said.

"Captain Amarinder Singh's leadership is badly needed at this time because in him, we have a leader of great vision. In him, we have a leader who has a wealth of experience. His commitment to the cause of development of Punjab is unrivalled," he added.

"The fiscal situation in Punjab under the SAD-BJP government has been mismanaged in a manner which is unprecedented," Manmohan said, adding, "Amarinder's government will undo all this damage and set a new pathway for a better tomorrow which will see that people will have a higher per-capita Income, better distribution of Income, better employment prospects and better infrastructure," he said.

Amarinder then addressed reporters and went through the key points of the manifesto, stating that the manifesto focused on nine main issues in Punjab, some of which were water supply, fighting the supply and consumption of drugs in the state, employment generation, waiver of agricultural debts and welfare measures for farmers, trade, business and industry and affordable electricity.

The manifesto also vowed to bring in total transparency in governance as well as all financial and political systems through innovative initiatives and out-of-the-box measures.

The manifesto includes a 10–page chargesheet against the Badal regime, exposing the alleged "Loot, Boot & Shoot" policy of the SAD-BJP government that also lists out the multiple failures of the Akali "misrule" of past 10 years.

The chargesheet is led by a section on 'Family First – the family comes first while the state goes to dumps' and underlines 'Why it's imperative for the people of Punjab to rid themselves of a decade of SAD-BJP misrule'.

"The manifesto is being launched in Chandigarh and five other cities in Punjab as well," he said. "We are taking over a deficit state. The government is operating by selling land and mortgaging buildings, including old age homes," he added.

"Nevertheless, we have made a comprehensive manifesto. We have covered every facet of Punjab," Amarinder said. "Rural debt in Punjab is Rs 67,000 crore. We are planning to take over debt of every farmer and negotiate with banks," he said.

He also addressed the problem of consumption of drugs in the state and said, "Drugs is the first thing we will attack and in four weeks, we will end this drug menace in Punjab."

He added that it was because of unemployment that the youth in Punjab were turning to drugs. "We will catch these drug fellows and we will hang them upside down," he said dramatically.

Amarinder also said that the Congress plans to launch a programme called 'Har Ghar Mein Naukri' which plans to provide employment to 55 lakh households in Punjab. "In each district, there will be a new set-up which will monitor what type of jobs are required." Amarinder Singh announced that the state would generate as many as 25 lakh jobs within the next five years.

"Till jobs are available, we will give a stipend of Rs 2,500 to every youngster," he said.

Amarinder dismissed suggestions that his promise to provide jobs to all unemployed in the state was like the Rs 15-lakh in all accounts promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "People know what I promise, I do fulfil them," he said.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of the press conference was when Amarinder announced that Congress plans to launch a programme called 'Guardians of Governance'.

"We are starting a programme called Guardians of Governance. This will be a group of ex-servicemen from panchayats to blocks to districts, right up to the chief minister. This department will be under the chief minister. They will report about the implementation of schemes. We will utitlise a discipline force. This is going to hopefully eradicate the misuse of funds," said Amarinder.

The Congress leader also talked about providing electricity to Punjab. "We will provide affordable electricity. If we want industry to come to Punjab then we have to give a level playing field," he said. "We will reduce power tariff to industry from Rs 7.60 down to Rs 5," he added.

He also promised to bring a new industrial policy within 90 days, besides promising an end to VIP culture, bring sweeping economic reforms and total transparency in governance. He also promised free houses to homeless dalits/SCs/OBCs and one job in every family.

He lamented that the growth rate of Punjab was down at 5.6 percent, against the national average of 7.3 percent, and that the state has slided from number one position to number 19 under Akalis. "We are in a very bad shape," he said.

On the contentious SYL Canal issue, he insisted there was no additional water in Punjab and that when the Assembly will be convened a law will be passed for not sharing any of the state's waters.

"We are not for not giving. But, we don't have it (to share)," he said when asked about it.

Amarinder Singh also spoke about giving smartphones to children "to use them as education tools. An idle mind is the devil's workshop. We want to get them out of this mode of drug business."

Noting that this is his last election, Amarinder said, "For 47 years, I have been in politics and this is my last election. I am not going to fight again. People know that what I say, I fulfil."

Manmohan Singh also spoke on demonetisation and said that it will affect the election results in Punjab as well. "Demonetisation is an important issue which will figure in Punjab as well," he said.

"It has been proven now that the country's GDP will be affected by demonetisation. National income unit of the CSO (Central Statistical Organisation) has come out with a statement that GDP growth will be 7.1 percent as against the target of 7.6 percent, but this does not take into account the effect of demonetisation," said the former prime minister.

We are giving smartphones to children to use them as education tools. Idle mind is devil's workshop. We want to get them out of this mode of drug business.

Updated Date: Jan 09, 2017 16:30:49 IST