TO TEST the capability of four main candidates from Ludhiana constituency for the Lok Sabha election, the Ludhiana Management Association on Thursday evening organised an open discussion in which AAP candidate H S Phoolka, Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu and SAD candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali shared the dais.
However, Independent candidate Simarjit Singh Bains did not turn up. The event saw the candidates answering questions by the audience. They also indirectly targeted one another as organisers had made it clear that criticism and heated arguments were not allowed.
The highlight was Manpreet Singh Ayali’s views on women’s safety. He said, “Girls should prefer not going out in the dark. We cannot provide police security everywhere as it is impractical. Girls need to be cautious too.”
His statement not only got a hoot from the women sitting in the audience but AAP candidate H S Phoolka and Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu also criticised it. Each candidate was given time of 7-10 minutes to speak.
‘HOW CAN INDUSTRY FLOURISH IN STATE?’
Congress candidate Bittu scored some brownie points as he targeted the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal for ‘demanding share in every industry in state’. Taunting the Akalis, he said, “We need to create an environment for industries to flourish. We cannot demand share from each industry.”
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Invoking the legacy of his grandfather Beant Singh, former Punjab CM, he said that “even after his sacrifice to flush out terrorism within six months, we failed to bring state on right track”. He also cited law and order and unemployment as major issues in Punjab.
Bittu said that “villagers should socially boycott the drug peddlers”. It was again an indirect taunt to Akalis as he said, “We all know who is promoting drugs in state. Villagers should socially boycott these people.”
He reiterated his stand on bringing PGI hospital to Ludhiana. Citing an example of Delhi, he said that “like Sheila Dixit controlled pollution there, he will do it for Ludhiana as master plan of Rs 10,000 crore will be made to increase greenery and introduce CNG buses and autos”.
Bittu blamed the Akalis for the non-functional airport. “We need to acquire 45 acres of land for expanding airport but Akalis are sacrificing it to make Bathinda airport. If I come to power, Ludhiana will get an airport in a year,” he claimed. He also mentioned the Sarabha Nagar firing incident involving the Youth Akali Dal leaders.
Asked about dynasty politics in his party, he said, “Every individual has the right to contest polls. No one can be stopped, be it Rahul Gandhi or anyone.”
“To all women out here, you are running the world, and no one can stop you from going anywhere,” he said amid loud applause.
AYALI GETS FLAK
FOR POWER CUTS
SAD candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali said that if he came to power, “MPLAD funds will be clubbed with schemes of state govt” to make it more profitable for people. “We are at state and MC level and if we are elected to Centre too, it will be most appropriate as functioning will become smooth,” he said.
Ayali said that new hospitals and schools would be opened on the periphery. When he asked the audience if “they still have power cuts in residential areas”, some hands went up and people said, “Yes.” He replied, “We are working on upgrading grids and work is almost over. As many as 90% power cuts have been eliminated.”
He said that “in two years he will control pollution in Ludhiana” and get rid of its most polluted title. Then he advised girls not to go during late hours which got sharp reactions from all.
A woman said, “You should talk of reducing VIP security instead of advising girls to stop going out in the dark.”
‘WILL WIN WITHOUT DRUGS, LIQUOR’
Aam Aadmi Party candidate H S Phoolka targeted the Congress and Akalis for winning elections with muscle power and hooliganism. “I do not have any money to distribute drugs and liquor. I am here to prove that elections can be won without them,” said Phoolka. He added that “what can be expected from a government which advises girls not to go out in the dark instead of giving them security and assurance that they are safe”.
“An Akali leader says on television channel that people of Punjab demand liquor and thus we have to give them. Is this the government you want?” asked Phoolka.
He said that Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to resign from the CM’s post was appropriate. “Ours is not a planned party; it was a challenge we accepted. Even I never thought of coming into politics till Prashant Bhushan asked me to join AAP as the party was not gathering momentum in Punjab,” he added.
Phoolka again targeted the Akalis and said the “firing incident of Sarabha Nagar was planned to create fear among people”. He said that politicians had deliberately plagued the administration system. “I am not here to get your ration cards and land papers made. I am not a politician who will do your administration paperwork. I am here to change system that you don’t need to approach MLA or MP to get documents,” he added.