War of numbers over AAP’s poll promises for Punjab

Congress, Akalis accuse Kejriwal of deception, say freebies unviable

Updated - December 12, 2021 06:50 pm IST

Published - December 12, 2021 06:48 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Photo: Twitter/@AamAadmiParty

Photo: Twitter/@AamAadmiParty

As Assembly elections in Punjab inch closer, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is hard-selling its ‘Delhi model’ of development and governance in the State. However, its slew of freebies on offer has come in for criticism from political rivals.

AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister has been visiting the State and making populist announcements ahead of the Assembly elections due in early 2022. The party’s key election promises so far include free education for every child born in Punjab in government schools; free medical treatment at government hospitals; free electricity upto 300 units to every household; a monthly stipend of ₹1,000 for women and providing ₹1 crore for Army and Police personnel killed in the line of duty.

Last week, Mr. Kejriwal launched what the party termed the ‘World’s largest Women’s Empowerment Campaign’ under which women above the age of 18 would be paid ₹1,000 per month if the AAP is voted to power.

At the event, Mr. Kejriwal claimed that according to an estimate, illegal trade of ₹20,000 crore per annum in sand and gravel mining alone was going on in Punjab. He asserted that after the AAP forms the government, it will stop this “theft” and the money will be used to pay the ₹1,000 stipend to women .

During their campaign, party leaders have been repeatedly stressing that AAP is running a successful government in Delhi for the last seven years and if their party can do that in Delhi, it can do the same in Punjab too.

According to State’s budget estimate for 2021-22, the outstanding debt of Punjab is likely to be ₹2.73 lakh crore by March-end 2022. As per a conservative estimate to fulfil its promise the AAP will require over ₹12,000 crore annually.

The AAP’s announcements are being termed as ‘false promises’ by political rivals with the ruling Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal accusing Mr. Kejriwal of trying to deceive people with sole objective to grab the power.

Responding to the announcements, State Congress president Najot Singh Sidhu asked Mr. Kejriwal to tell the people of Punjab how he plans to finance the freebies. He added that Mr. Kejriwal to stop fooling the people if he can’t provide basic economic backing for the promises.

In a tweet, Mr. Sidhu stated “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others. @ArvindKejriwal Ji you talk of women empowerment, jobs & teachers. However, you don’t have one woman minister in your Cabinet. How many women in Delhi get ₹1,000 despite revenue surplus left by Sheila Dikshit Ji [former Delhi Chief Minister]!”

Sukhbir Badal, president of Shiromani Akali Dal also took on Mr. Kejriwal for misleading the people, in the same way as the Congress party had done.

After the AAP launched a registration drive for the ‘monthly payment’ scheme, Mr Badal asked, “Will only women who fill forms get the benefit? If not, then why are you fooling Punjabis? Why isn’t it implemented in Delhi?”

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