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In poll-bound Gujarat, Himachal, Cong & AAP echo each other in promises

The Gujarat Congress promises include 10 hours of power supply without metre to farmers during daytime, waiver of farm loans up to Rs 3 lakh, prohibiting purchase of produce below MSP, and bonuses on sale of farm produce and milk.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal announced 300 units of free electricity in Gujarat. (Twitter/Gopal Italia)

As the Congress faces a spirited challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party in the two states going to polls this year, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the promises by the two are starting to sound similar.

The Gujarat Congress promises include 10 hours of power supply without metre to farmers during daytime, waiver of farm loans up to Rs 3 lakh, prohibiting purchase of produce below MSP, and bonuses on sale of farm produce and milk. Promises also include halving charges for irrigation water and allowing cattle-herders to purchase agricultural land.

In Himachal, the Congress has promised free power, jobs and financial incentives for women.

AAP, which has taken on the Modi government over accusations that it is distributing ‘revdi’, has accused the Congress of copying it in both the states, as “it has nothing to offer of its own”. AAP earlier announced 300 units of free electricity in Gujarat, like its government has implemented in Punjab.

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AAP Gujarat chief Gopal Italia says what matters to people is who is making the promises. “Now, people have tools like social media and other resources to cross-verify what one is claiming. They have reasons to believe the words of Arvind Kejriwal, as they can themselves see what AAP has achieved in Delhi. If Congress leaders are serious about what they are proposing, they should first implement the same in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the party is in power,” Italia told The Indian Express.

On Kejriwal’s announcement of free electricity and monthly cash grants to women, Italia says these were more than poll promises. “They are a part of the party’s vision for Gujarat,” he says, adding that the Congress has run out of ideas and therefore it has not managed to win any Assembly election in Gujarat in the past 27 years.

The Congress, desperate to retain the space it is losing to AAP, said its announcements were a continuation of the decisions made at the party’s Chintan Shivir in Dwarka in February this year.

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Calling AAP the ‘B-team of the BJP’, Congress leader and former Union minister Tushar Chaudhary recently said the party would announce other promises decided at the Dwarka shivir in the coming days. However, at least one of those promises — “a chargesheet of the BJP government’s failures during the Covid-19 pandemic” – is missing so far.

Former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia says the party had no need to “copy” AAP. “The Congress government in Punjab had already been giving free electricity and Rs 1,000 grant to women. Congress governments in Punjab also used to give free power. So, AAP’s claim that it was the first to promise free electricity has to be viewed in this context. Our Sankalp Patra for farmers and cattle-herders, as a matter of fact, details the promises the Congress made at Dwarka. Our Dwarka Sankalp Patra also promised free electricity to farmers. So rather than the Congress imitating AAP, it is the other way round,” he says.

AAP has been making gradual inroads in Gujarat, and last year replaced the Congress as the opposition in the Surat Municipal Corporation. In the Rajkot Municipal Corporation also, two of the four Congress corporators defected to AAP in April this year and the party has since been demanding that Vashram Sagathiya, one of the defectors, be recognised as Leader of Opposition in place of Congress’s Bhanuben Sorani. Kejriwal has been holding town halls with businessmen in Saurashtra, a region where the Congress made gains in the last elections. AAP has also tied up with the Bharatiya Tribal Party to attract tribals, who have traditionally been a Congress vote bank.

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In Himachal, the Congress promises include free power up to 300 units, 5 lakh jobs, as well as Rs 1,500 to women between the ages of 18 and 60. This is similar to the AAP promise in Punjab to provide Rs 1,000 to women above 18.

The BJP government in the state already provides free power up to 125 units to all residents.

And while it is yet to come out with an employment agenda for Himachal, AAP has promised jobs to all unemployed youths in Gujarat.

First published on: 15-08-2022 at 10:24:49 am
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