M A I N   N E W S

SAD promises to strive for federal set-up
Free water and power to kisans, education for girls
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 21
The Shiromani Akali Dal has reaffirmed its commitment to a federal setup where the Union Government has least interference on issues concerning the states. Party President, Parkash Singh Badal, releasing the party manifesto here today, said: “We stand for a true federal system as we feel that a country cannot prosper under a unitary form of government”.

In the 20-paged manifesto in Gurmukhi, the SAD has rededicated itself to a comprehensive social welfare regime with reintroduction of free irrigation and power to farmers, Shagun Scheme for Dalits in an enhanced form, abolition of octroi and free education for girls. The party has called for complete eradication of politics of confrontation and stressed on conciliation and consensus.

However, when Mr Badal was asked if the ongoing slander campaign by the SAD and the Congress in the form of advertisements was contradictory to what had been said in the manifesto, Mr Badal said: “I have made an appeal to stop this before and do the same again.” He said the SAD had written to the Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer to take note of the ads, but there was no response from either so far.

Mr Badal accused Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh of misleading the state on the issue of “loan waiver”. He said the entire loan taken by the Punjab Government for fighting terrorism had been waived. “Punjab does not owe a single rupee to the Centre. If this is proved false, I am willing to pay any fine for a misstatement”. He said he was willing to debate the issue publicly.

In the manifesto, the SAD has promised a sixth pay commission for employees.

Among those who accompanied Mr Badal at the manifesto release ceremony were former minister Maheshinder Singh Grewal, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, General Secretary, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Dr D.S Cheema and the SAD nominee for the Ludhiana parliamentary seat, Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon.

The manifesto calls for the return of Mr Atal Vajpayee as Prime Minister. It makes a strong plea for a government with “nationalist” leadership but one that had a feel of local problems. “Those who have no understanding of the culture and heritage of our country can not be trusted to solve the problems facing the country. Only those who share pride in being an Indian are fit to govern this country.”

Calling for peace, amity and progress in Punjab based on economic justice, internal political autonomy and religious freedom, the manifesto commits the party to federalism by mobilising wider national support in favour of complete decentralisation of the executive authority and fiscal planning. The SAD, it says, would throw its weight behind the globalisation of economy in a manner that suited to the specific requirements of Punjabi farmers and traders.

The Akali manifesto also underscores the need for peace and communal amity in the country, especially in Punjab. It describes the congress as the fountainhead of communal hatred and violence in the country.

The manifesto puts the youth at centre-stage, making Punjab’s vision for 2004 youth-centric. It promises to turn Punjab into an IT and industrial hub. While the SAD makes a categorical ideological shift towards youth, promising strong representation at all electoral layers and other decision making processes, it envisages innovative schemes for liberal financial grants and easy loans for self-employment units.

Emphasising that the results of the Lok Sabha poll in Punjab would signal an end to the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government, paving the way for the return of an Akali-BJP government in the state, the manifesto underlines the need for greater collaboration between the Centre and the state to open the way for central investment in the state.

The manifesto touches the problems faced by Dalits and other under-privileged sections of society. 

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