World renowned economist and former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Monday launched the Punjab Congress manifesto for the coming assembly elections with the confidence that the party, under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh, will undo the damage wreaked on the state by the Badal government.Pointing to the tremendous potential of Punjab, which remained unexploited due to the Badals’ misgovernance over the past 10 years, Dr Singh said the state badly needed Captain Amarinder’s leadership at this juncture. Describing Captain Amarinder as a visionary, with a wealth of experience, Dr. Singh expressed the confidence that Punjab was in for a better time under the sate Congress president’s leadership.Dr. Singh described as a visionary document the manifesto, which Captain Amarinder said had taken six months of collecting inputs from all stakeholders, going down to the villages. Under Captain Amarinder’s rule, the state will see all-round development with revival of the economy, industry, agriculture and infrastructure, backed by higher income and equal distribution of wealth, said Dr. Singh.
Among those present at the launch event were AICC leaders Ambika Soni, Asha Kumari and Randeep Surjewala, besides former Punjab Chief Minister and Manifesto Committee chairperson Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.In a first, the comprehensive 120-page manifesto was simultaneously launched by state party leaders Manpreet Singh Badal in Chandigarh, Maharani Preneet Kaur in Patiala, Sunil Jakhar in Bathinda, Vijay Inder Singla in Ludhiana, Ch. Santokh Singh in Jalandhar and Rana Gurjit Singh in Amritsar. The manifesto was released in both English and Punjabi in online soft format, with hard copies of the same distributed to the media.The holistic manifesto, which addresses the concerns and aspirations of every section of the society, incorporates inputs from all cross-sections of the society, with Dr. Singh also having given his valuable suggestions. It was prepared by a 17-member manifesto committee, chaired by Bhattal and co-chaired by Manpreet Badal.Noting that the next government in Punjab would be taking over a deficit budget of over Rs. 5000 crore with huge debts, Captain Amarinder promised to bring growth back on track in the state through out-of-the-box thinking.
Addressing mediapersons at the launch event at AICC headquarters here, Captain Amarinder said innovative measures such as cess on liquor and revenue through mining could help generate funds for employment, as promised by the Congress in its manifesto. With the promise of one job per household, the Congress has decided to take various initiatives, including the establishment of Employment Bureaus across the state under the supervision of an Employment Commission, to generate and provide employment to the youth, said the Punjab Congress president.Reiterating his promise to revive agriculture and industry in the state, Captain Amarinder said though farm debt was the responsibility of the central government, he would ensure that all debts of farmers in Punjab are waived off on priority basis. On the industrial front, he promised a level playing field for the industries and a series of steps for revival of industry in the state. He pointed out that his previous government had got an investment commitment worth Rs. 1.70 lakh crore, which could have led to the generation of 20 lakh jobs, but the process was scuttled by the Akalis when they took over the reins of the state. Responding to a query, Captain Amarinder said the war against drugs promised in the manifesto incorporated the thinking of INC Vice President Rahul Gandhi and he would break the back of drugs and hang those responsible for the menace.
On the SYL issue, he announced that his government would introduce a legislation to protect the water of Punjab, which had not a drop to spare.In response to questions on his employment generation promise, Captain Amarinder asserted that he did not believe in making false promises and was confident of generating the 20 lakh jobs needed to ensure `one job per family’ in Punjab.Revenue generation would be augmented through unique initiatives to boost the state’s financial health, without mortgaging assets like the Badal government had done, he said, pointing out that the SAD-BJP government in the state had mortgaged even schools, mental hospitals and old age homes to compensate for the losses to the state exchequer resulting from their corruption and mismanagement.Both Dr. Singh and Captain Amarinder agreed that demonetisation would be an issue in Punjab, along with other issues plaguing the people of the state. Dr. Singh expressed concern at the impact of demonetisation on GDP.Captain Amarinder said the Congress manifesto, which covers every section of the society, was a realistic document, unlike that of the AAP which was making separate manifestos that could not possibly be implemented. Reiterating that the Congress manifesto was sacrosanct and would be executed in totality, Captain Amarinder said neither AAP nor the Akalis, who had not fulfilled even 20% of the promises made last time, were serious about the welfare of Punjab.To another question, Captain Amarinder confirmed that Navjot Singh Sidhu would be contesting in the Assembly elections on Congress ticket from Amritsar East.