Views that never cease

Punjab elections: more of a soap opera - Gobind Thukral

It is raining goodies for Punjab voters.  All the three major groupings are showering beyond the wildest imagination of the electorate that woluld exercise their franchise on February 4 to elect 117 members of the Vidhan Sabha.  Political parties competing for the attention of over one crore 98 lakh voters have promised as a wag put it everything except brides or bridegrooms.  Each of the major parties;   the Akali Dal, the Congress, the BJP and the newly sprouted the Aam Aadmi Party have tried to outclass each other in promising a paradise .

The election time manifestos tell a tale of weaving rosy pictures on a canvass that is rough and patchy. Debt ridden farmers shall  not only have  free power,   ready connection for tube wells and remunerative price for the produce but free health and education services and a minimum income all over the year. You ask and you have it. Fertiliser input incentive of Rs 100 per quintal on both wheat and paddy as an additional support to farmers over and above the minimum support price (MSP).

All small farmers will also be eligible for Rs two lakh interest free agriculture crop loan. Farm labourers will also be compensated in case of damage to crops due to natural calamities. There is a promise to revolutionise rural infrastructure, create 20 lakh jobs for youth, establish mega complexes for industry and provide succour to the poorest of the poor.

And, no party has spelt from where the money shall come to shower these goodies. No business plan for Punjab currently reeling under heavy debt of Rs 1.30 lakh crore and two third of industry either shut or moved out   , businesses suffering due to demonstisation and underpaid workers existing on the margins. Army of half educated unemployed and drug addiction pushing a whole generation into utter ruin- all showing signs of utter waste.

Anyone who cares to read these manifestos would find that Punjab will be soon not only better than California but shall be an envy of other developed countries. There is promise of 24 hours power supply, clean drinking water, wide village roads, cemented lanes lit by solar lights. Add to this modern well equipped schools and health centers. There shall be a slew of world class colleges, professional and general; universities where even Americans would love to come to study.

If Akalis promise [even after ten years of not so rose-colored government earning charges of corruption and drug supply] in their manifesto next five years  to be known as the period of rural infrastructure revolution .  The Congress would brook no charge of being beaten. Out of power in Punjab for ten years, Congress promised a host of freebies; farm loan waiver and free power, fifty lakh smart phones, textbooks and doles to unemployed youth. A golden green Punjab is shining out in its longest ever manifesto.

Capt Amarinder Singh has announced that the state would generate as many as 25 lakh jobs within the next five years so as to provide employment to all youth. He also promised to crackdown on drugs and corruption, and 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 Dalit /SCs/OBCs and one job in each family.

Aam Aadmi Party manifesto promises loan waiver and free power to farmers, wiping out of drug trade within a month, stipend of Rs 2,500 per month to unemployed youth, free smart mobile phones to youth and free textbooks to all children. AAP manifesto promises loan waiver and free power to farmers, wiping out of drug trade within a month, stipend of Rs 2,500 per month to unemployed youth, free smart mobile phones to youth and free textbooks to all children. AAP has already released farmer, youth and transport, trade and industry manifestos.

Even Akalis admitting drug menace promise to setup more dedication centers and plenty of doles for all sections.

Punjab politics is a dynastic soap opera and the main characters are a few leading families, who have ruled the state at different times and shall continue. Even a cursory glance at the list of candidates shows that. Over the decades these four dozen clans have established their monopoly over the state’s political craft. They have some inalienable right on the state and turned politics into   family businesses where grooming starts early and enriches around one around except the general public. Details of assets filed by these different clans show their wealth increasing by leaps and bounds over the years. Grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers’ sisters and cousins all decorate these lists that also have sons –in- law and brothers- in- laws.

Leave the names pending on the lists, there are over a dozen candidates who claim themselves to be either lucky for having been fielded or standing in the front row flaunting the tag of being brothers, sons and sons-in-law of different heavyweights of Punjab.

Shiromani Akali Dal is the worst affected party by this filial menace, with Congress this time implementing a criterion of ‘one family one ticket’ and the Aam Aadmi Party too is   affected less, at least as for now.

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