After taking digs at his own party’s government and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for offering “lollipops” ahead of polls, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday jumped into the race to lure voters with freebies by promising to give ₹2,000 per month and eight free cylinders to every homemaker woman and incentives for school and college going girls if the party retains power in the state.
Sidhu announced the populist promises at a rally in Shaina village which comes under the Bhadaur constituency of the district. “We want to give full rights to half the population in the state. The Congress has made a big road map for 1.18 crore women and girls. As per the category of self-reliance, we will start from homemakers and give ₹2,000 per month and eight free cylinders in a year to each woman,” repeated Sidhu, while addressing the media at the residence of former Barnala MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon in the town.
With these promises, Sidhu has upped the game on competitive populism by trying to outdo the Opposition AAP and SAD. The AAP was the first to promise ₹1,000 per month to each woman in the state if voted to power, then SAD promised to double it, and Sidhu has gone a few steps further in one go. The PPCC chief’s promises have come even before the Congress manifesto committee, which is headed by Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa, has drafted its poll manifesto.
At the rally, Sidhu claimed that the school dropout number of girls is one-and-a-half per cent more as compared to boys but the Congress government will incentivise girl child with various schemes. “We will incentivise girl education and give ₹5,000 to a girl after she passes Class 5; ₹10,000 after Class 8 and ₹15,000 plus a tablet (computer) after Class 10. Besides, when she enrols in 10+2, the government will give ₹20,000. If she wants to get higher education in a college, we will provide an environment-friendly scooty. The Punjab model will also give ₹2 lakh loan without interest for PhD and other higher courses,” he added.
He said the money will be arranged for such schemes by closing the business of various mafias. They will collect around ₹30,000 to ₹40,000 crore and use it with Central schemes. “Punjab will be made a welfare state, not the welfare of only 100 families,” he added.
Sidhu said despite the fact women have equal rights but the registration of the property is 1.8 per cent in the state. “The Punjab model declares that all property registrations will be free for women. We will also open skill development centres in 23 districts for women. A special women commando battalion will be formed in villages and towns,” he added.
The Congress leader also announced that farmers having below 5 acres of land or farm labourers, including women, will be given ₹300 per day through MGNREGA.
Reverting on whether these promises will be a part of Congress election manifesto, Sidhu said, “There will be some reasons if I am holding a press conference. This is the Congress if its chief is speaking.”
When asked that deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said he would put the ministry at Sidhu’s feet within a minute if he wants the same as Sidhu is unhappy, the Congress chief said, “He is my elder brother and he can say whatever.”