FPJ Edit: Real issues of Punjab need to be in focus

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, January 20, 2022, 08:08 AM IST
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Elections in Punjab have reached a decisive stage, with the Aam Aadmi Party choosing its state chief and two-term MP from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann as its chief ministerial candidate. For the first time, a political party in the country chose its leader by leaving the choice to the people themselves. The comedian-turned-politician won 93 per cent of the over 21 lakh tele-votes cast. Now he has the responsibility of leading the party to victory. The Congress has not categorically said that Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi will remain if the party wins a majority of the seats, as it does not want to antagonise state party chief Navjot Singh Sandhu, blessed with the gift of the gab like Mann. The Akali Dal-BSP combine has old warhorse Sukhbir Badal as its CM candidate while Amarinder Singh would like the BJP to support his claim to the chief ministership.

Battle lines have been clearly drawn and the results will show which one will finally make it to the post of chief minister. For the Congress, it is a do-or-die kind of situation as a victory in Punjab is necessary to retain its presence in the north. Much will depend on how the farmers and their supporters would vote this time. They were able to win their battle against the three farm laws that the Central government tried to ram down their throats. Support came from the people, cutting across political lines, because they saw the laws as an attempt to weaken the agricultural base of the state. When emotions overtook reason, the issues raised by the laws naturally got overlooked. There can be no denying that the agriculture sector in the state is in a deep crisis. Thanks to free supply of electricity and over pumping of groundwater, the water table has been going down disastrously.

Also, the area under cultivation has been decreasing as the farmers are becoming increasingly dependent on migrant labour. They no longer find farming a profitable venture, with the result that many find real estate opportunities in the land they once tilled. The increasing use of drugs among the youth is not something that can be hidden. On the industrial front, Punjab is now just a bit player. With each passing year, the state’s share in the Armed Forces has been decreasing. Small wonder that Punjab is no longer the prosperous, buoyant state that it once was. On many indices of growth, neighbouring states like Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have overtaken Punjab. Small wonder that unemployment has been growing so much so that the state is considered by many of its own people as the best place to fly away from to distant shores like Canada and Australia. These are some of the real issues that should be debated during the ongoing elections and a solution found. Whoever can steer the state out of its present moribund state is the one who should lead it.

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