The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will announce its chief ministerial candidate for Punjab before the Congress does, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on Wednesday.
In an interview to HT, Sisodia said the “freebies” announced by AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in poll-bound Punjab would be achieved by ensuring efficient tax collection and ending corruption in the state. He also said Congress’ chief minister in Punjab Charanjit Singh Channi is only trying to “imitate” Kejriwal for his simplicity and honesty to achieve a greater “public appeal”, and alleged his involvement in illegal sand mining in his own constituency Chamkaur Sahib. Channi, however, has dismissed the AAP’s allegations as a “bundle of lies”.
When asked about who will be AAP’s CM face in Punjab, Sisodia said, “We will announce, but so far even the Congress has not announced whether Channi will be their CM candidate or will it be someone else. But, let me assure you that AAP will announce its CM candidate for Punjab before the Congress does.” Kejriwal had in June announced that AAP’s chief ministerial candidate for Punjab will be from the Sikh community.
In the recently concluded HT Leadership Summit, Channi repeated that Kejriwal was a “kala angrez” (dark-complexioned Englishman) as Kejriwal does not belong to Punjab and does not know anything about the issues in the northern state. Kejriwal’s AAP is the main opposition party in the Punjab assembly and is hoping to better its performance in the February-March assembly elections in the state. “People in Punjab don’t believe in Kejriwal,” Channi said at the HTLS on December 4.
To this, Sisodia responded that it is not a hidden fact that Kejriwal is the chief minister of Delhi. “But if the people of Punjab want to adopt the politics and development model of Kejriwal and if they are fed up with the politics of the Congress, then what problem does Channi ji have in it? The people of Punjab want an honest government like the Kejriwal government in Delhi. It is known by now that Channi ji is having a problem with this because, otherwise, how will the sand mafia operate in that state. He will lose all the money,” Sisodia said.
The senior AAP leader said the party’s internal survey suggests that AAP will have a comfortable victory in Punjab. “The farm laws being repealed exposed the secret alliance of the Congress and the BJP in Punjab. If at all, the people of Punjab are feeling betrayed because they trusted the Congress and their former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, who allied with the BJP instead and exposed himself.
Captain had his personal agenda and played a dual role of telling one thing to the farmers and siding with the BJP-led Centre on the other hand. Ultimately, the Congress cheated and befooled the people of Punjab for five years. The same had happened with the Akali-BJP government prior to this and now I feel the Congress will have the same fate in Punjab. People will overthrow them,” Sisodia said.
The AAP has promised 300 units of free electricity per month for each household in Punjab if it comes to power. It has also promised that 24/7 power in Punjab will be provided and pending electricity bills will be waived. On November 22, Kejriwal announced that all women above 18 years of age in Punjab will be given ₹1,000 if his party comes to power in the assembly elections schedule. On December 3, Kejriwal promised free and quality education in government schools to those born in Punjab and announced to give an ex-gratia of ₹1 crore to families of the soldiers or police jawans who die in line of duty if AAP comes to power in the state.
When asked about how the AAP plans to roll out these schemes if voted to power, Sisodia said the party would follow the Delhi model. “The AAP’s promise is simple – the money of the people of Punjab should be used for and on the people of the state. The same model which the Kejriwal government has successfully implemented and showcased in Delhi. In Punjab, so far, be it the Congress or the BJP-Akali, these parties have been only siphoning off people’s taxes in some way or the other. Corruption is so rampant. The AAP when it comes to power will just ensure zero tolerance to corruption, timely tax collection and all this money will be rightfully deposited in the government’s kitty and it will be used for Punjab’s development only. This is how we changed Delhi’s governance and this is what we will do in Punjab too,” he said.
Sisodia hinted that if voted to power, the AAP government in Punjab will also simplify the state’s tax structure. “At present, 65% of the traders’ time in Punjab is wasted in government compliances. All this needs to change, like we simplified Delhi’s tax structure when we came to power. Education for all and economic growth will remain our main motto,” he said.