"The Badals and the Akali Dal will now have to ensure that most of Punjab's ills are resolved by the Modi government. It is a tall order for both sides to meet in the near future."
By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, June 2 - In the last few years, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has accused the Congress-led union government of discriminatory attitude against Punjab on practically all fronts. With the BJP-led NDA government, of which the Shiromani Akali Dal is a part, in power at the centre now, Badal will have to ensure delivery of all the demands his government used to make earlier.

Be it enhancement of the minimum support price for wheat, paddy and cotton, release of welfare funds, creating infrastructure, giving a special package and tax concession to the industry in the state, Badal will have to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is able to pamper Punjab in virtually all fields.

Badal, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal used to blame the central government for almost all the ills prevailing in the state.

Be it the spread of the drugs menace, lack of development or sharing of water with neighbouring states, the trio and other Akali Dal leaders never missed an opportunity to put the union government in the dock.

Even though Punjab Police last year busted a Rs.6,000-crore international synthetic drugs racket that was an 'in-house' matter, Badal has been accusing the Centre and the Border Security Force of not properly manning the 553-km-long border with Pakistan.

A major area of concern for the Punjab government has been the central government extending the tax holiday for industry in hill states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand till 2017.

Due to the tax holiday announced by the Centre for the hill states in 2003, when the NDA was in power, hundreds of industrial units from Punjab have shifted their base there.

No new big investment in industry in Punjab has come practically in the past three decades, leading to unemployment among youth.

Once the union government settles down for the work, the Punjab government would take up the issue of pending development projects with it. Due to the apathy of the previous government, a large number of projects in the state were hanging, Badal said after the Modi government came to office.

The opposition Congress in Punjab feels that Badal has never been able to get much from the NDA government and does not see much hope this time also.

Badal was in power in Punjab 1997-2002 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was at the Centre (1998-2004).

With the Akali Dal, which has been in power in Punjab since 2007 and was re-elected in the 2012 assembly polls, certainly suffering reverses in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the party leadership and the Badal government are worried.

The Akalis managed to win only four of Punjab's 13 seats in the Lok Sabha election. Even among these four seats, the Akali Dal managed to win two seats only by a margin of 20,000 and 23,000 votes.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which drew a blank in the rest of the country in the Lok Sabha election, ended up with four seats in the state. The AAP gained most of the anti-incumbency votes that the Akali Dal lost.

The Badals and the Akali Dal will now have to ensure that most of Punjab's ills are resolved by the Modi government. It is a tall order for both sides to meet in the near future.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])


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