Chandigarh, July 3: The Aam Aadmi Party today revealed its much awaited Punjab Agenda with the objective of changing the face of this state that is repeatedly hitting headlines for all that is negative. What is needed along with the agenda is strong vision and commitment and this is what is expected by the people from AAP. The agenda of different political parties has the tendency to overlap and that is normal as the issue are the same and so is the approach.
The AAP manifesto deals from micro to macro issues. Both drugs and rampant corruption are hot subjects in this state. It may be mentioned that the Akali Dal manifesto in 1977 elections had given a novel framework to end corruption but the party forgot it after coming into power. That manifesto now is mainly of academic interest. Similar is the case with ending drug menace. Despite Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal being in denial mode and blaming AAP and the Congress for ‘maligning’ youth as druggists, the party manifestos for the 2004 and 2011 elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee take cognizance of this problem. The 2011 manifesto was issued under Sukhbir’s signature.
State Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh at his party’s Bathinda conference made solemn commitment to the people at the level of the Sikh faith and this included ending drug menace in a month and that has been his refrain all these weeks. AAP also makes a similar promise.
An interesting point in this context is affidavit to be signed by the candidates contesting election to all democratic institutions in the context of drugs. This is an interesting point.
The manifesto states: “Local Body and Panchayat Election Candidates to Compulsorily Sign a Drug Free Aﬃdavit. All candidates contesting Local Body and Panchayat elections will have to compulsorily sign an aﬃdavit declaring themselves to be drug free. We will also campaign for appropriate changes in the Representation of People's Act (Central Government legislation) to make it mandatory for the assembly and parliamentary election candidates to also sign similar aﬃdavits.”
Controversial Agriculture Minister Tota Singh sometime back had perhaps unwittingly proposed that all the candidates should undergo dope test. But then the problem with the Akali Dal is that the party promises more but fails at the level of implementation. The Akali Dal in 2012 manifesto had promised laptops with data cards but the scheme had to be dropped in view of the financial constraints.
AAP has promised laptops to Class IX students at the start of the session from Chief Minister’s funds. Akali Dal could have provided the same in case money had not been wasted at the sangat darshan programmes that is more of corrupting the panchayats.
Jan Lokpal is on the agenda of the party to make the state corruption free. There would be major crackdown on corruption, complete overhaul of governance and use of technology to eliminate scope of corruption. These are laudable promises. Capt Amarinder Singh had put behind bar both Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal as part of the campaign against corruption. The witnesses turned hostile as they returned to power in 2007 resulting in their acquittal.
Then there is the promise to create 25 lakh jobs and employment opportunities in next five years. However, at the same time, the youth have to be made employable for which the party talks of skill development. The party has promises skill centre in each of the 117 blocks in the state. Skill development has been the agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi too. Punjab had a number of polytechnics and industrial training institutes many of which have been closed down or don’t attract students.
AAP came up with Mohalla clinics in Delhi and it is perhaps on the same pattern that manifesto refers to the setting Modern Pendu Sehat Clinic in every village while ensuring availability of a doctor, free medicines and free of charge diagnostic tests. The public sector health and education systems that have become the victims of neo-liberal policies must be revived. That would be the single most contribution by the party that comes into power in 2017. There is no difference between the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress on this issue as both have destroyed the public sector.
Framing up of people in false cases has been the issue that has been repeatedly in the state since 2007 when the Akali Dal-BJP came into power. AAP too has promised withdrawal of the vendetta cases.
AAP also promises to make sports a mass movement and introduce “Punjab Olympic Mission” to produce Olympic medallists. Sansarpur village in the state at one time was known as the hockey nursery.
Punjab is the tragedy of decline after achieving certain level of development and now needs total restructuring and overhauling. Punjab was the first state to link its villages with pucca roads. Punjab topped in total rural electrification. Punjab is the state with the most developed marketing system for farm produce. Even now the state tops in per capita tractors, per capita vehicles and per capita liquor consumption. It is this state that has now witnessed increasing incidence of suicides by farmers and farm workers.
The people have to make a choice and the choice would be dictated more by the capacity of the party to convince them to deliver. Moreover, the manifestos of all the three contestants might overlap, going by earlier experience.
It is in this context that the leader commanding the team would matter.