In his second public rally in the state after forming a new party, former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh Tuesday gunned for both state Congress chief Navjot Sidhu and AAP president Arvind Kejriwal for misleading Punjabis with their lofty promises. Terming his alliance with BJP as good for Punjab and the country, Amarinder added that he expected PM to make an announcement during his Ferozepur rally that would make agriculture profitable. He, however, added he was “not in the loop” about what PM would announce.
Addressing a gathering in Bathinda after inducting Congress leader Raj Namberdar in his Punjab Lok Congress, Amarinder said that he enjoyed a “cordial relationship” with the PM.
“He (PM) understands Punjab’s contribution to the country….I am on my way to Ferozepur to welcome the PM on Wednesday. We need a new ray of light, new thought, and also we need to think about Punjab’s security as we have a 600-km long border with Pakistan from Pathankot to Fazilka. Many new things are coming from across the border like arms, RDX etc. though drones. These are all set to disturb peace of Punjab….we decided to ally with a national party (BJP) that can take care of the security of the country. Alliance with BJP is in state and national interest.”
The former CM lashed out at Kejriwal and Sidhu for taking people of Punjab for a ride by making promises which cannot be fulfilled.
“The cumulative debt of Punjab is already about Rs 5 lakh crore and I don’t know from where Sidhu and Kejriwal will get the money to support these schemes,” he said. Pointing out that Sidhu was only recently opposing CM Charanjit Singh Channi and Kejriwal on sops, Amarinder said the PPCC chief did not have a permanent stand on anything.
About his expectations from the PM’s rally, Amarinder said that he was “not in the loop” about what he might announce.
He added: “Agricultural practices need to be changed now, what used to be grown 50 years ago can’t continue. We need to do some changes to make agriculture profitable. We expect him to announce something on those lines. However, I am not in a loop to know any announcement to be done by the PM.”
The former CM said that he had written to PM sometime back seeking special Rs 1 lakh crore package for Punjab for agriculture diversification which could be given over a period of five years with Rs 20,000 crore every year.
He said this can be specifically used for promoting cultivation of pulses as India imported pulses worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore every year.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Amarinder said: “I have not spoken to the PM in past many days and, therefore, I do not know what he may announce and if at all he has to announce. However, when I was the CM, I had written to him seeking a special package of Rs 1 lakh crore for Punjab so that we could diversity into growing pulses instead of the paddy-wheat cycle…I had suggested a kind of MSP for pulses.”
The former CM also said that he would be addressing the rally Wednesday and would raise issues crucial for the people of the state.
“I have also demanded from the state government that the promise made when I was in office regarding the reimbursement of 20 dollars fee levied by Pakistan for the pilgrims to Kartarpur Corridor should be fulfilled. Also, I have demanded that Aadhaar card could be the basis of seeking entry to Pakistan through the corridor instead of passports as many economically backward people of the state do not have a passport,” he said.
This will be the first rally that the Prime Minister will address in Punjab ahead of the Assembly polls and after BJPs tied up with Punjab Lok Congress and the SAD (Sanyukt) led by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
There has been considerable talk in political circles that BJP may use this opportunity to reach out to the Sikhs in general and farmers in particular by announcing a farm loan waver. There has also been talk that perhaps a transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab may be in cards and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, strengthened this speculation by demanding the same from Modi a few days back while addressing a rally.
Amarinder, meanwhile, stressed that there was an urgent need to strengthen Punjab’s economy and to create more employment opportunities in the state.
Rebutting Channi’s charge of non-performance against him during his Bathinda address, Amaninder said: “You ask them (Congress leaders), if I did not perform, why are they seeking votes for last five years and not their own three months alone?”
He once again defended Centre’s decision to extend BSF’s jurisdiction in the state to 50-km.
BJP Pulls All Stops for Modi
The BJP, meanwhile, is busy making hectic preparations for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally and has been reaching out to its district units to ensure a good turnout at Ferozepur.
According to the BJP office-bearer in-charge of making the arrangements, Jivan Gupta, the rally would see record turnout of people.
“This will be one of the biggest rallies that Punjab will have seen and it will galvanise the state towards a new direction through the PM,” said Gupta.
There have been reports that BJP has not been getting good response from rural areas of Punjab for the rally and hence crowds are being brought in from neighbouring Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
However, Jivan Gupta said that buses were being requisitioned from the neighbouring states because the private buses in Punjab could not meet the demand of the numbers requires for the rally.
“There are only a limited number of buses available in Punjab and hence we have had to arrange buses from Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh,” said Gupta.
He too said that there was no information about any announcement that Modi may make at the rally.
“We do not know if any announcement is going to be made but one thing is clear that it will propel BJP towards power in Punjab and will help given development to the state through ‘double engine ki sarkar’,” he said.
While all arrangements for the rally are in place, there is literally a cloud hanging over the rally venue because of adverse weather conditions in the state.
The meteorological department has forecast rain in the state on Wednesday and if that happens it will cast a dampener on the rally.
Also, poor weather conditions may also not be viable for the IAF helicopters to fly the Prime Minister.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.