Former SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.
After a rollercoaster 2020, all eyes in Punjab are now on 2021, amid the pandemic and farmers’ agitation that is set to be a dominating factor affecting the political discourse in the state.
The year holds importance as it would not only witness the Covid-19 vaccine, and a possible outcome of farmers’ agitation, but also be the last year of the incumbent government, before Punjab goes to polls in early 2022.
The ruling Congress, with 80 MLAs in 117 member Assembly, is hoping for a repeat in 2022 and is planning to announce a slew of development projects in this year.
The pandemic, and the lockdown to contain it, hit the state hard economically. Already a funds crunched state, Punjab had to suffer as the Centre did not pay major part of GST compensation. Its industry was also hit hard due to lockdown. And finally, when the life started coming back on track, farmers’ agitation in the form of rail blockade worsened the matter.
“We are now hoping to recover. Last year was the worst year in the history of Punjab. Now, we have a lot of hopes from the new year. Our people will get the vaccine and life will start getting back to normal. We look forward to that. We also hope that farmers’ agitation gets to a logical conclusion,” said Cabinet Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.
He added that politically 2021 will be an important year. “We are looking good. We hope we will have a good year,” he said.
The new year will also see municipal elections in the state which are likely to be held in February. These would be seen as a precursor to the Assembly elections next year.
With the agitating farmers not allowing any political leaders on their stage, it remains to be seen which party will get traction ahead of elections. The BJP is on the defensive as the farm laws, against which the farmers are protesting, were brought in by party-led coalition government at Centre. Their former ally, Shiromani Akali Dal that parted ways with BJP on the issue of farm laws, will try to gain ground as an independent entity in the state. The ruling party is already looking at pumping funds into constituencies and fulfil all the promises it made before the last election. The government has started rolling out its free smart phone scheme and has decided to start development works, besides fulfilling other promises.
The opposition AAP will also try to get traction even as its leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been trying to woo the farmers by addressing them during their protest in National Capital.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also tried to woo the agitating farmers by passing Bills in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha negating the Centre’s laws. He had also staged a dharna along with party MLAs at Jantar Mantar.
The SAD, meanwhile, is harping on its breaking away from the BJP, and party MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal quitting Union Cabinet berth.
Amarinder hopes for a productive year head
Amarinder on Friday greeted the people on New Year, with hopes and prayers of early resolution of the problems of the peacefully protesting farmers, and emphasis on the importance of industry and communications for the state’s progress and employment generation for children.
While hoping for freedom from the pandemic, he also appealed to all Punjabis to continue to exercise caution and restraint amid the outbreak of a new more contagious strain of Covid in many parts of the world.
Congratulating farmers for continuing to exercise their democratic and constitutional right to protest in a peaceful manner, the chief minister said they have won hearts of people worldwide with their behaviour. “Not a single instance of rioting or violence was resorted to by the agitating farmers earlier during their protest in Punjab, and now at the Delhi borders,” he said.
In a tough year, marked by the Covid crisis since March 22, followed by a prolonged farmers’ fight for justice, the state has witnessed record production of wheat and rice, he added. In fact, Punjabis have continued to do their duties unwaveringly with full commitment and courage, on all fronts even in these trying conditions, he said while citing examples of trade and industry, which according to him has revived successfully “due to the hard work of Punjabis after facing total shutdown for several months”.
“All 2,40,000 industrial units in Ludhiana are now open,” he said, adding that industries worth Rs 65,000-Rs 70000 crore were being set up in Punjab.
Stressing that “the world is recognising the accomplishments of Punjab”, the chief minister said this underlined the appreciation for Punjabis’ bravery, the state’s success in controlling COVID “and the fact that it was free of any law and order problem”.
“It is important to ensure that investment and industry keeps coming into the state for the generation of employment for our children so that they do not go out of Punjab for jobs,” he added.
Amarinder noted that in the modern electronic age, where communication was critical to progress and speed was of essence, Punjab could not afford to lag behind and needed to move forward with aggression.
He expressed hope that 2021 will see a new era of progress being ushered into the state, with the problems of the farmers being quickly solved.