Punjab Votes ’07
Poor turnout at his rallies
Prabhjot Singh and Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 6
Wrapping up his two-day election tour, Dr Manmohan Singh said every effort should be made to prevent terrorism from propping up again. People had to choose between development and progressive forces on the one hand and disruptive and fundamental forces on the other.
Conceding that the Prime Minister was not a crowd-puller, the Congress wanted to use him as a trump card to woo the educated urban elite by planning rallies at the district headquarters of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana. But moderate to poor turnout at the rallies may be worrying party managers in the state.
After the rally here, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and a general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee, Mr Manish Tewari, made no secret of their feelings while talking to the top brass of the Ludhiana District Congress Committee.
Though the Prime Minister did not raise the issue of terrorism in his first three election speeches at Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, he picked up the thread of thought from the welcome speech of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, who said Congress men had always been in the forefront in safeguarding national interests.
The people waited patiently for two hours for the Prime Minister to reach, but in the end his 14-minute speech did not enthuse them much.
“The Congress was in the forefront making sacrifices not only during the freedom struggle, but also in the fight against terrorism,” he said, reeling out names of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Beant Singh, Joginder Paul Pandey and Sat Pal Prashar.
What could speak better of the Congress secular credentials than the fact that Dr Manmohan Singh, a son of Punjab, had been made the Prime Minister of the country, Mr Dullo said.
“In 32 months of the UPA government, the national growth rate has reached 8 per cent. We want to raise it further to 9 to 10 per cent in coming years,” the Prime Minister said. “Industrial production has to be stepped up. Besides accelerating industrialisation, the agriculture sector has to be strengthened by giving latest and better quality inputs,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have national plans as well as plans for Punjab. The farm sector is the backbone of our economy and we cannot progress until our agriculture production is improved. To achieve our intended goals and for rapid industrialisation, we have to provide uninterrupted power supply, good roads and a rail network, improve telecommunication and provide more international airports and ports. Many NRIs from the USA and the UK are keen to make India their investment destination.”
“The dream of India cannot be fulfilled until Punjab progresses rapidly to regain its number one position,” he added.
Earlier, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, made a scathing attack on the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Badals, saying their only interest was to grab power.
“They have always compromised with the interests of Punjab as they have agricultural and business interests in Haryana and Rajasthan. Have they ever defended Punjab waters? See their friend, Mr Om Parkash Chautala, who wants Chandigarh and Punjab waters for Haryana. Can you trust such people,” he asked the audience.
Chander Parkash writes from Patiala: Addressing a well-attended rally on the last day of his whirlwind tour of Punjab at the local Polo Ground, the Prime Minister criticised those following religion and caste-based politics and appealed to the people to vote against disruptive forces in Punjab.
“ Punjab has been witnessing a clash of two ideologies. One is that which is being followed by the Congress for uprooting poverty and unemployment and the other is being followed by some forces trying to divide the country on religion and caste lines.”
Showering praise on Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh for his efforts to put Punjab back on the rails of development, the Prime Minister asked the people to strengthen the hands of Congress party supremo Sonia Gandhi and Capt Amarinder Singh.
“ Another five years will enable the Congress to finish its projects,” he said. Dr Manmohan Singh was given a sword and ‘siropa’ .
Appreciating the efforts of Capt Amarinder Singh’s government, the Prime Minister said :“The income of farmers has gone up in the past five years. The Punjab Government has initiated measures to make agriculture more relevant and profitable.”, he claimed.
Mr Dullo tried to play the ‘Hindu’ card by holding a section of Akali leaders responsible for bringing terrorism to Punjab. The Chief Minister cautioned the people that if the Akalis were voted to power, Punjab would be doomed.