Fiscal mess : Badal, Bajwa trade barbs

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NewZNew (Khadoor Sahib) : Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today blamed the successive Congress governments at the Centre for the financial crunch facing Punjab. He alleged the “step-motherly” treatment meted out to the state coupled with the Congress government’s regressive policies had broken the backbone of Punjab’s economy.

Talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a political conference to mark Gurta Gaddi Diwas of Guru Angad Dev here, Badal said the Congress had “always adopted an anti-Punjab stance” due to which the state’s development had suffered.

He claimed Punjab’s economy was affected adversely due to the Partition as well as militancy, but it allegedly received a fatal blow when the Congress granted industrial packages to neighbouring hill states. He said the move led to the exodus of industry from Punjab.

The Chief Minister claimed the media had “misinterpreted” the letter written by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. He said Jaitley had only referred to the issue of debt waiver for the state and revision of formula for recruitment in the Army. He said, in fact, Jaitley had approved several key projects for Amritsar.

Taking a jibe at former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh for his “prolonged absence” from Amritsar, Badal claimed while Jaitley was doing so much for the holy city despite his defeat, the “Lok Sabha MP who had been elected by the people was nowhere to be seen”.

At the Congress rally, PPCC chief Partap Bajwa said Jaitley’s refusal to extend special package had “proved” that the NDA government, and not the previous UPA regime, had extended a raw deal to Punjab.

He said the Akali Dal’s tall claims about Punjab benefiting immensely with the NDA’s return to power at the Centre stood “exposed” after Jaitley’s letter. The rally was organised by Congress leader Harminder Singh Gill.

Bajwa said, “The Badals used to boast that the day NDA forms government, truckloads of money will start arriving in Punjab. Though this did not happen, truckloads of ill-gotten money earned from sand and drug mafia certainly has gone out of Punjab.”

The PPCC chief claimed that Jaitley had not only denied package to Punjab, but had also sought details on how the state spent hundreds of crores allocated to it by the previous UPA regime.

He also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he hadn’t yet withdrawn the plea filed in the Supreme Court against the Punjabi farmers in Gujarat.

Bajwa accused Badal of squandering public money to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore every year on Sangat Darshan. He said the Congress would order a probe into it once the party “formed” the government in 2017. He alleged this money was being embezzled. He also charged the Badal Government with frittering away the allocation of Rs 850 crore made by the UPA Government to the state to deal with waterlogging and floods. He sought white paper on the utilisation of these funds.

The PPCC chief also accused the Badals of deliberately pushing the people of the state into the scourge of drug addiction under a “well-planned conspiracy”.