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Badals make last ditch effort at 2017 poll victory by raining sops, Opposition cries foul

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:37 IST

For a government facing anti-incumbency, sops become an effective tool to woo voters ahead of polls. And this is precisely what the government in Punjab has been up to for the last several months.

Racing against time as the shadow of implementation of electoral model code of conduct looms large, the Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) - BJP combine government in have been showering sops on the population.

In a specially convened session of the state assembly, the government passed 'The Punjab Employees Welfare Bill 2016' that aims at regularisation of around 27,000 adhoc and contractual employees who have been in service for three years.

In addition to this eight other bills were also passed in a span of 35 minutes. This was a one-sided affair as the opposition MLAs had resigned last month following an adverse judgement from the Supreme Court over sharing of Punjab's river waters.

The session was convened to convert the ordinances into Bills and get them passed in the House, after the Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore refused to sign them citing some "irregularities", including the one to regularise services of 27,000 contractual employees.

The SAD-BJP combine is eyeing the large employee base in the state to brighten its poll prospects. In a last-ditch effort, it is also trying to accommodate both the rebels and the faithful against various posts.

Trying to tilt the scales

Earlier during the day, the government had a special cabinet meeting in which it decided to allow the plot holders of the industrial complex at Goindwal with plots up to 8,000 square yard categories, who were allotted plots on or before 31 December 31, 1995, to make payment of dues of principle cost and enhanced land cost with 10% simple annual interest.

A spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said that the under this package, component of penal and compounding interest has been waived off and defaulter allottees, including those of cancelled allotments where any sort of construction or production exists, have been given option to make payment of their dues in lump sum

within 90 days

of intimation or in two equated half yearly instalments - by 30 June 2017 and 31 December 2017 with up-to-date interest.

The cabinet also decided to enhance the monthly honorarium of 4,200 Mid-day Meal workers from Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,700 besides announcing certain other sops.

Calling fraud

This move by the SAD-BJP government has not gone down well with its rivals who are looking to oust the Badal-led government from the state.

Terming the passage of the popular Bills by the government as 'fraud', the state convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Gurpreet Waraich said the people would give a befitting reply for this.

"Timing of the passage of these Bills, clearly indicates that these are nothing else, but a last attempt to fool the people by diverting their attention from the 10-years of misrule of the SAD-BJP government," said Wariach, adding that the public is wise enough to see through the Akali game plan.

He quipped that if Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal were really serious about the woes of temporary employees, why they did not pass such a bill at the beginning of their tenure and why now, when they know that they cannot implement it?

"The Badals have already met a humiliating defeat in the upcoming assembly polls and know it very well that people will not allow them to re-enter the Assembly. They have now made another attempt to make a fool of them," Waraich said.

A cover-up game

The AAP leadership has said that after a ten-year "Mafia Rule" in Punjab, suddenly Badals are trying to cover up their sins.

AAP's legal cell chief Himmat Singh Shergill said that all Punjabis are very much aware of the Badal government's loot of the state exchequer and hence they have rendered the state treasury nearly empty.

All the promises and new financial schemes being announced by the Badals are nothing but panic reactions to woo the voters who have already decided to throw them out of power in 2017.

Shergill said AAP has already said in its manifesto that once the party forms the government it would not employ anyone on adhoc, temporary or contractual basis.

"We have always been supporting regular employment in the state government departments," he said while adding that AAP would reintroduce old pension scheme for the Punjab government employees once voted to power in 2017.

Shergill said the scheme was discontinued after 1 January 2004. He explained that the scheme would benefit Punjab government employees of nearly 46 different departments of the state, who are over 1,15,000 in number. Out of these nearly 20,000 employees who would directly benefit the old pension scheme are from the Punjab Police department.

Twisted paths

Punjab Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh has vowed to review all decisions taken by the Badal government in the last three months of the Akali rule, accusing it of circumventing established rules and norms to push its electoral agenda.

Lambasting the Badals for bypassing all political and administrative norms to pass a series of legislations through a special session of the Assembly just weeks ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab, he said the game plan of the Akalis has been thoroughly exposed and only a total rout in the polls can really teach them a lesson.

He reiterated his promise to review every act the Badals pass and throw them into jail if found guilty of any criminal act or misdemeanor.

He said the Congress will review every single order and decision of the Badal government, taken through hastily called cabinet meetings and special sessions of the State Assembly.

Any decision taken in violation of established rules would be revoked, he said, adding that accountability would be fixed and action would be taken against all civil servants found facilitating such violations.

Panic mode

Amarinder said the summoning of the special session of the Assembly

on Monday

to pass all kinds of legislation to give sops to the voters showed the panic in the government. He pointed out that when the governor had also refused to give his assent to the Ordinances and Bills proposed by the Badals, it was clear that there was sheer desperation behind the move.

Reiterating his request to the Election Commission of India to take serious note of the situation prevailing in Punjab, where the Badal government has thrown all sense of norm and propriety to the winds in its frustration ahead of the polls, Amarinder said only immediate imposition of the model code of conduct can prevent the political environment from further deterioration in the run-up to the elections.

He has once again reminded the people of Punjab that the decisions being hurried through by the Badals in the name of their welfare would not stand legal scrutiny and were clearly aimed at fooling them ahead of the polls.

He pointed that had the Badals wanted to really ensure the welfare of various sections of the people in Punjab, they would have done something in the past 10 years of their rule.

First published: 19 December 2016, 10:33 IST