Categorically rejecting allegations of withdrawal of free power to Punjab’s farmers, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said his government is ready to willing to forego the portion of fiscal deficit enhancement offered by the Centre but would not compromise with the farmers’ interest at any cost.Dismissing the Centre’s suggestion on replacement of free power to farmers with DBT as ‘totally unacceptable and a direct attack on the federal structure of the nation’, the Chief Minister said he will take up the issue with the Centre for trying to impose such an anti-farmer condition on the cash-strapped state in the guise of extending fiscal support amid the Covid pandemic.Asserting that the free power facility for farmers would continue to exist till his government is in power, Captain Amarinder said his government will take loans to bridge the fiscal deficit, and the Government of India cannot dictate the terms of a sovereign loan being taken by a State Government.Captain Amarinder also lashed out at Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Badal for trying to pin the blame for the central government’s misdemeanors on the state government, which had unwaveringly been providing free power to farmers since taking over in March 2017, despite the massive fiscal crunch it had inherited from the erstwhile Akali-BJP regime. The Chief Minister asked Sukhbir to immediately quit the ruling NDA at the Centre, and demanded Union Minister and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the central cabinet, pointing out that it was the Government of India that took the decision directing the states to withdraw the free power, and also failed to come to the rescue of the state, and any section of its people, in the wake of the unprecedented Covid crisis and lockdown.
Terming their allegations as malicious and mischievous, and totally unsubstantiated, Captain Amarinder hit out at the SAD leadership for not fighting for the rights of Punjab and its people, including farmers, at the Centre or in Parliament, and resorting, instead, to petty and shameless politicking even on such a grave issue of national concern. “If you have even an iota of shame, you should leave the NDA coalition, of which you are a part, immediately, and join my government in working for the people of the state,” the Chief Minister said, criticising Sukhbir and Harsimrat over their pathetic attempts to mislead the people of Punjab with their patent double standards, blatant falsehoods, unfounded allegations.He recalled the shocking display of hypocrisy of SAD even over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which they had supported in Parliament before launching a public tirade against it. It was obvious, said the Chief Minister, that Sukhbir, Harsimrat and their party have no scruples or principles and are only interested in promoting their personal and political interests. Captain Amarinder clarified that the state cabinet had, in its last meeting, given an in-principle approval to undertaking certain reforms to become eligible to avail additional borrowing of 1.5% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) amid COVID-19, as mandated by the Government of India. While allowing an enhancement of fiscal deficit of States under FRBM Act from 3% to 5%, Government of India had linked a portion of the same to certain administrative reforms.It is for the BJP and its alliance partner SAD to explain why there is an attempt to force such a condition on Punjab, he said.The Chief Minister had earlier, on Friday, also tweeted on this issue, saying: “Let me reassure our farmers that there is no plan to withdraw free power to agriculture in Punjab. I am cognizant of your economic condition and appreciate the hard work put in by you in every crop to grow foodgrain for the country. Free power will continue!”