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Badal, FM lock horns on subsidies
These’ve to go sooner or later: Manpreet
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
The wedge driven by subsidies has once again brought Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his nephew-cum-finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal face to face, forcing the former to issue a stern warning to all his cabinet colleagues to refrain from issuing any “irresponsible statements” that violate the declared line of the party.

The immediate provocation for the senior Badal to issue a strong-worded statement has been the observations Manpreet Singh Badal made on the issue of subsidies both to the farm sector as well as the ‘atta-dal’ scheme at a Meet-the-Press programme at Chandigarh Press Club yesterday.

Though Manpreet Badal did not suggest or propose any immediate withdrawal of subsidies, yet his impression that “these would go one day” has reportedly irked the Chief Minister.

In fact Manpreet Badal did not even remotely suggest any thinking or suggestion on his part to dispense with the present system of subsidies to various sections of society. All he said was that in the changing global economic scenario, the subsidies had to go sooner or later.

It is not for the first time that both the CM and the FM have been on a confrontational course over the issue of subsidies. Poor fiscal health of the state, insists the finance minister, needs some revolutionary decisions, including fresh thinking on subsidies to accelerate the overall development of the state.

The industrial growth has been static while agriculture has been witnessing satisfactory growth. Advocating need for land bank to help industrialisation of Punjab, he feels that without industry, Punjab cannot regain its leading position in the country.

Infrastructure development, re-invigorating the dilapidated education and health care systems need lot of money, feels Manpreet Badal and wants the state’s plan size to grow bigger. “I need Rs 3,000 crore. It does not matter from which source it comes,” he commented yesterday.

Parkash Singh Badal’s retort that “no individual should put his personal interest above the party's and the government's vision” gives a stern message that “'irresponsible statements which contradict the declared party and government line and create confusion about the government’s commitment to the cause of the people” were unwarranted.

He wants that every member of his cabinet and every SAD-BJP legislator should stay committed to the programmes and policies on which they have received a mandate from the people during the elections. "I strongly disapprove of the politics of saying one thing to the people during the election campaign and doing exactly the opposite, once in government. That's how we are different from the Congress."

He said every minister had to implement creditably the ideological framework given by the party. “The people have given their mandate on the basis of that ideology."

The Chief Minister, generally known for his sobriety, however, has been on an offensive, strongly defending his government's pro-poor and people friendly welfare policies. He has declared that the SAD-BJP government will continue with these policies, including subsidies, pensions, free power, cheaper ‘atta-dal’ for the poor and Shagun scheme for dalit girls.

"I cannot betray my people just to score a few brownie points,” he said.



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