March 3, 2021 10:23:53 am
A day after Punjab CM Amarinder Singh announced the appointment of political strategist Prashant Kishor as Principal Advisor, former Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hit out at his own party’s government, alleging that state’s income was going into private pockets and only 1 per cent people were pocketing state’s money through “frontmen.”
On Monday, political circles were abuzz with talk of how Kishor’s appointment will impact the Amarinder-Sidhu equation. Sidhu coming out all guns blazing against the Amarinder government in less than 24-hours of that means that task is cut out for Kishor.
Sidhu on Tuesday appeared on his You Tube channel — Jittega Punjab — said that money was being pocketed through “puppets in the form of frontmen” and “somebody was pulling their strings from behind”. “These are covert, behind the scene operations,” he said.
“Why should 99 per cent people of the state suffer? Why is this money not utilised for making schools, hospitals? The rulers have been filling their pockets.”
Sidhu was speaking ahead of the presentation of budget, scheduled in the Assembly on March 8. His aggressive stand on budget is being seen with curiosity as it is after a long time that he has spoken against the government.
He said, “In 1997, the debt on the state was Rs 15,250 crore and now, as per the budget estimates for the current fiscal, it is Rs 2.48 lakh crore. If soft loans against mortgaging of public property is considered, then it will touch Rs 3.50 lakh crore.”
He added that he was citing these figures from none other than the Finance Minister (Manpreet Badal). “In the budgetary estimates of Rs 88,000 crore in the current fiscal, Rs 67,000 crore was to go into debt servicing.”
“After Covid-19, the economy took a back seat and the collections have been at Rs 25,000 crore less and the income is only Rs 62,000 crore. The debt servicing is Rs 67,000 crore, which is more than the income,” said Sidhu.
Reiterating his earlier stand on state’s own tax revenue, Sidhu said in 2019-20, Punjab’s own tax revenue was Rs 33,000 crore.
“A state like Tamil Nadu earns Rs 32,000 crore from excise alone. Is there a comparison?” he asked.
He also referred to his report on sand mining and said, “I made the report on sand mining that I was asked to prepare. I say we can earn Rs 2,000 to 3000 crore. Andhra Pradesh is earning Rs 43 crore in 12 days and Akali-BJP have been earning Rs 40 crore every year. Andhra Pradesh has got one river, we have got three rivers and we earn Rs 40 crore in one year. “
“There is a lot of money coming in but it never reaches the schools, hospitals and developments works,” he said.
Hitting out at former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s family, he said Badals earlier had two buses and now they have several transport companies. “PRTC is under debt of Rs 400 crore. Why their businesses did not suffer?” he asked adding that “neeti our neeyat dono mein kharabi hai.”
The former Cabinet minister said he knew Punjab’s problems very well. “I know solutions. I have clarity. There is no fog, no conflict. We have to get out of this. If I know the solution, we should come out on agenda.
Sidhu’s comments come even as the Punjab Congress has already launched ‘Captain for 2022’ campaign. While it is being watched as to what role will Kishor play in designing Amarinder’s campaign for 2022 elections, it is also to be seen how the Sidhu-Amarinder equation will affect the political scenario particularly if the high-command pushes Sihu’s name for state party chief.
Kishor has already had an equation with Sidhu as he was the one who had impressed upon former AICC president Rahul Gandhi to get him on board the Congress ahead of 2017 Assembly elections when there was talk that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal was in touch with Sidhu. Sidhu’s entry in Congress is believed to have tilted the voters towards Congress at that time. It now remains to be seen if Kishor can bring both Sidhu and Amarinder together or not.
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