Chandigarh, July 9: The political parties eyeing power in Punjab in February 2017 Assembly elections needs to be pressurized by public opinion to make public declaration amounting to concensus on certain basic issues that are part of political discourse rather than diverting attention of the people by focusing on the ones like advertent or inadvertent misuse of religious symbols for political purposes. Punjab can’t afford yet another non-productive government.
Providing good roads, potable drinking water, sewerage and health and education facilities are the basic responsibility of the party in power and the same should not be touted as achievements. People don’t elect their representative to loot them but to serve them and efficiently carry out basic responsibilities. It is a shame that India is talking of basic provisions like toilets after about seven decades of independence. This includes once prosperous state like Punjab too.
The first one is the revival of economy that calls for some drastic long term steps. The party in power should do only course correction if needed. Punjab has presently no policy worth the name for the revival of economy and putting on rail the system that was wrecked during long period of militancy. Rampant corruption is off-shoot of this wrecked system. Menace of drugs and increasing suicides by the farmers and farm workers are the manifestations of the deep rooted disease.
Ironically, politicians are filthily rich and are prepared to spend any amount, first to get ticket and then to win elections. It is a particular class that has been gaining while the economy has been going deeper and deeper into morass.
It is pertinent to recall that first conscious effort was made at one stage during the regime of Capt Amarinder Singh by the young legislators cutting across party lines to form a common platform to evolve consensus on the revival of economy. The move had been initiated by Manpreet Singh Badal, then Akali Dal MLA. However, the move could not take off as it was deliberately scuttled by some forces.
Capt Amarinder Singh today talked of long term industrial policy while interacting with the people at Balachour. Industrial development is just one issue and it is too well known as to why the state is not attracting investment. Even the existing industry is closing down.
Political class is responsible for the present state of affairs and hence the need to evolve a consensus and take pledge publicly on those issues, if possible, at one platform for which initiative should be taken by industrial or farmers organisations or some research institute.
Punjab has disbursed about Rs 50,000 crore as power subsidy to the farmers since 1997 and the same amount as capital investment in the farm sector would have changed the face of the state. But then power subsidy was introduced to get votes and consolidate the vote bank. Farming and dairy farming are subsidized in almost every country but it is the system that has to change to make it more productive. The party in power can’t go on blaming the centre for every problem in the state.
Let the main leaders from the Akali Dal, BJP, the Congress and Aadmi Party be brought on some platform to take a pledge that a long term policy for economic revival of the state would be evolved through consensus.
It is the revival of economy that would create jobs and employment opportunities. Promising 25 lakh jobs is too vague a promise without coming out any blueprint for revival of economy. The political parties should stop befooling the people.
The second issue is that of drugs. AAP is contesting the Assembly election for the first time in Punjab. Political parties and candidates have been distributing drugs, especially in the villages, to lure the voters. This includes elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. For about a fortnight during the election, Punjab turns into state of highly spirited rivers. The three parties would commit publicly that their candidates would not distribute drugs.
Those who are promising to end this menace within months overlook the historical and cultural roots of this menace. The situation has worsened during the post-militancy period when drugs came to be distributed during elections.
There is yet one more pledge that these parties should take and that is against using religious symbols for political purposes. AAP has learnt it in a bitter way.
The political parties should not compete on projecting themselves as more charitable but come up with concrete plans. The issues are too well known. The common points from these plans should be form part of the consensus. This is the real challenge. People should not allow political parties to mislead them.