Raising the pitch for the October 11 Lok Sabha by-election from Gurdaspur, Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar on Sunday took the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) head-on over its failures at the Centre and in Punjab, as he embarked on a series of worker meetings in Pathankot district of the constituency.Addressing worker meetings in Sujanpur and Bhoa, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president shrugged off the `outsider’ tag on him as irrelevant, choosing to focus on critical issues such as farmers’ welfare, development, illegal mining, etc. Vinod Khanna, the former MP whose death had necessitated this by-election, was also an outsider, as was Captain Amarinder Singh when he defeated Arun Jaitley from Amritsar parliamentary constituency, he pointed out.Jakhar dismissed outright any threat from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), saying it had already conceded defeat, while listing out the glaring failures of the BJP at the Centre and the SAD-BJP alliance with `misruled’ Punjab for a decade.Demonetisation and GST had broken the backbone of the common people while the spiraling prices of essential commodities, including diesel, petrol and LPG, continued to cause them unbearable suffering, said Jakhar, lashing out at the anti-people policies of the BJP.Flaying the Modi government at the Centre, he said in contrast to the nation-building work undertaken by the Congress, the BJP government had pushed the people of India into a state of regression.
Exuding confidence of securing a massive victory, Jakhar said votes would be polled in the name of the Congress and Captain Amarinder Singh, who had put the people of Punjab back on the path of progress with various welfare initiatives, including the historic farm loan waiver. He asserted that he would win this election on the plank of development and the work done by the Congress government in Punjab.Pointing out that SAD leader Sukhbir Badal had not given a single penny to the farmers during the Akali tenure, Jakhar said Captain Amarinder had initiated several measures, apart from loan waiver, to strengthen the agrarian system of the state. He referred to the Horticulture University proposed to be set in Abohar, with a Centre slated to come up in Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency.Promising to take their issues to the Lok Sabha, Jakhar said he would ensure all-round development of all sections of the society, including farmers, youth and ex-servicemen. He assured the workers that he would ask Tourism & Culture Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to resolve the issue of dam construction near the Mukteshwar Dham temple to the people’s satisfaction.
With regard to illegal mining, Jakhar said the Rs 450 crore that was being pocketed by Jathedars during the Akali regime from mining had come into the government coffers since the Captain Amarinder government took over. Referring to the Rs 31000 crore food grain scam under the Akalis, Jakhar said he would aggressively pursue the matter in the Lok Sabha to ensure that every paisa of it comes back into the government exchequer, to be utilized for the welfare of farmers.“Sukhbir garib di sugar tey pension kha gaya,” (Sukhbir gobbled up the sugar and pension of Punjab’s poor), said Jakhar, adding that even though his Lok Sabha term would be for just 18 months or so, he would make all-out efforts to ensure the development of the constituency.Jakhar lashed out at BJP candidate Sarwan Salaria, saying he had failed to manage his own Chintpurni Medical College properly, so where was the question of him doing anything for the constituency. He also came down heavily on Punjab BJP president Vijay Sampla for making false claims about the nation’s development under the party rule.AICC Secretary Harish Choudhary, DCC Pathankot President Anil Vij, PPCC leader Amit Singh Mantoo and Bhoa MLA Joginder Pal also spoke at the meetings, exhorting the party workers to come together, rank and file, to take the Congress campaign to every village in the constituency.Prominent Congress leaders present included Tripit Rajinder Bajwa, Barinder singh Pahra, Joginder Bhoa, Amit Vij, Vinay Mahajan, Salamat Masih and Fateh Bajwa.