Ministers couldnt counter opposition,poll promises worth Rs 500 cr fulfilled,rest deffered,ridicule touched a new low
They rewrote Punjabs revolving door history. But the SAD-BJP governments new innings in power will go down in history as one that saw it slipping on promises,ministers trivialising issues and ridicule for members of the Opposition with oft-repeated taunts of second humiliating defeat in a row.
Out of the nearly two dozen odd promises it made in its manifesto,Akali Dal only kept those that entailed a outgo of Rs 500 crore annually,made possible through austerity cuts. Tablets instead of laptops would cost the state exchequer Rs 210 crore and employability allowance for only those graduates listed for last three years with employment exchanges would add up to Rs 3 crore. Other low cost promises kept are three memorials and free coaching for SC students. The government which was privy to states poor fiscal health when it announced its poll manifesto,will have to first rein in states soaring revenue,fiscal deficit and debt to be able to deliver its grandiose promises such as free five marla plots for landless poor,free gas connections for over nine lakh BPL families,Rs 2 lakh health insurance for BPL and 16 lakh blue cardholder families,provident fund for farmers and higher shagun,old age,widow and other pensions.
The promise of Re 1 per kg wheat flour under its fund-starved atta-dal scheme too has been deferred till fiscal health improves or the UPA government rolls out its Food Security Act. Moreover,the poll promises of Rs 500 crore will be more than offset by the Rs 3,000-crore additional resources the government hopes to mop up through taxes after the Dasuya bypoll.
The budget session also saw complacency on the part of some ministers as they trivialised issues raised by the Opposition both during question and zero hours. As Congress MLA Laal Singh made a comparison of Haryana and Punjabs growth during budget debate,he was interrupted by Revenue Minister Bikram Majithia with,I now know why you were changed as finance minister. Minister for Welfare of Scs,Gulzar Singh Ranike,was at pains to explain pendency in Shagun Scheme forcing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to rise to his defence and announce July 31 deadline for completing ongoing verification of pending applications.
Industries Minister Anil Joshi could not justify why prices of sand and gravel could not be controlled through timely government intervention. It was only after some backroom diplomacy by Speaker Charanjit Atwal and assurances from BJP veteran and minister Madan Mohan Mittal that the impasse was resolved. A cornered Joshi also resorted to ridicule to silence his opponent,something that the House witnessed on many occasions.
Some remarks also reeked of arrogance. Punjab Congress Capt Amarinder Singh was attacked in his absence by SADs Virsa Singh Valtoha for being too shame-faced to even enter Patiala while SAD MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu harped at length on the embarrassing defeat of the Congress with anecdotes. The worst perhaps came on the last day of the session with Congress MLA Mohd Sadique entertaining CM Badals request to sing only to be termed by Majithia as issueless Congress reducing the state Assembly to a singing stage.
But despite the new lows,the session was able to mark a high in ruling-opposition ties as members of Opposition debated the budget and current issues during Zero Hour rather than staging walkouts and some resolutions and bills saw members of treasury and Opposition benches voicing similar concerns and views.