Updated 5:42 am, Sep 17, 2019

PUNJAB: THE ROAD AHEAD | Cover Story | SNE

By  SNE Bureau .
Apr 04, 2017

SNE

With proper governance, life will improve for all in Punjab. Sustainable development is the pathway to the future. The roadmap to development and progress in Punjab rests on good governance. If Captain Amarinder Singh offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance it will bring back smiles on the face of the people.

Captain Amarinder Singh conquered Punjab with effective maneuvering of political cannons of development, drug menace, farm loans, revival of industry and improvement of state’s financial health against Shiromani Akali Dal-Bhartiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) combine. Captain’s artillery became more lethal due to inter-incumbency factor against ten-year rule by SAD-BJP combine.

New Chief Minister of Punjab could not have asked for a better gift on his 75th birthday. The Congress returned to power in Punjab with a thumping majority. The party fell one seat short of achieving two-thirds majority in the Punjab assembly. The Congress notched up 77 of the 117 assembly seats.

Congress has managed to brush aside the challenge posed by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party and SAD-BJP combine in the first-ever three cornered contest in Punjab. This is the Congress party’s second best-ever performance in the state. In 1992 elections congress managed to win 87 seats, but we should not forget that the elections were boycotted by the Akalis. Taking that into consideration the electoral gains by Captain’s party is remarkable. Congress managed to better its showing in 2017 assembly elections from 46 seats in 2012 it has managed to grab 77 seats in the just concluded elections.

The spectacular success of Congress in Punjab has managed to stem poll reversals it has been facing since 2013. Victory in Punjab has also provided a face-saver to the Congress leadership that has failed to slow down, if not halt, the Narendra Modi juggernaut in the high-stakes battle in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

In Punjab hype surrounding the AAP with NRI campaigning for the party –changed the bipolar polity of the state but it did not matter in the end as AAP could only manage to bag only 20 seats, taking the fizz out of the brew. The SAD-BJP combine suffered their most humiliating defeat as they just managed to win 18 assembly seats with 30% vote share.

The Congress which is facing its worst crisis should not worry too much about its showing the in recently concluded assembly elections. It almost faired as well as the BJP winning Punjab, and securing more seats than the BJP in Manipur and Goa and loosing out in UP and Uttarakhand.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. How can we
ignore History, it gives us enough evidence that any challenger eyeing India had to first conquer and pass through Punjab. The Congress has conquered Punjab and the Chief Minister should feel proud of conquering one of the most strategically important state in India, which will augur well for Congress in the days to come. The importance of assembly elections in Punjab can be stated in just one line: It will separate the contenders for 2019 elections from the pretenders.

All said and done about winning Punjab elections, Captain will now have the power to write the history of Punjab. Winning Punjab elections was the beginning of the battle, the real challenges lie ahead. The Chief Minister will have to address the enormous problems staring Punjab in the face.

Revival of agriculture and industrial sector, drug menace, improving state’s financial health and generating more jobs for the youth will be the top priorities for Captain Amarinder Singh as he takes reigns as chief minister of Punjab for the second time. Political aspirants make too much of the people before election, and if successful, too much of themselves after it. They use the people when they want to rise, as we treat the spirited horse when we want to mount him; for a time we pat the animal upon the neck, and speak softly, but once in saddle, comes the whip and the spur.

Politicians continue to make the right noises during the elections to hit the headlines but to fulfil promised radical changes is an uphill task. The new government has to handle gigantic challenges. Punjab needs to create jobs for the youth. This means a huge expansion of the industrial and agriculture sector. To inc entivize investment in industries, farm sector, labour policies, land use policies need to become more favourable to investors.

Captain Amarinder Singh has ensured during the election campaign to end drug menace in Punjab. The government will also have to spend a lot of money on rehabilitation and de-addiction centres, as well as appoint more psychiatrists, to bring back youth into the mainstream, who have lost their prime of life by living in the shadows of drugs.

New industrial policy is urgently required for the revival of ailing industries in the state. Captain Amarinder Singh will have to liberlise industrial policy to check the flight of industries out of Punjab. More than 18000 factories closed between 2007 and 2014 due to state’s indifferent attitude towards industrial sector.

If Punjab has to become one of the most prosperous states, the financial health of the state needs to be improved. No political party wants to open its cards when it comes to revival of agriculture in Punjab. Since Punjab is known as the bread basket of India, crisis in agriculture sector is a major concern for the new government.

Agriculture cannot improve without encouraging the farmers and making pro-agrarian policies by the government. The government needs to fulfil the farm loan waiver scheme as promised during the election campaign. The new government will have to do a lot of juggling to find funds if it wants to wave off the farmer’s loan. The farm indebtedness is estimated to be about Rs.69,355 Crore in Punjab.

The Congress leaders will face a major challenge to generate job opportunities for the youth. Congress had promised one government job for each household during elections. It remains to be seen how government encourages entrepreneurs to invest money in the state to generate more employment. At present unemployment rate among state’s youth is 16.6 % as compared to the national average of 10.2 %. The new Chief Minister has already indicated that generating employed for the unemployed youth might take some time.

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