The first budget session of the Congress government in Punjab, which commences tomorrow, will be stormy, with opposition – AAP and SAD-BJP – set to raise issues like farmer suicides, debt waiver, alleged impropriety in mining contracts and “atrocities” on Dalits. The government is likely to rely on a counter-strategy, with a whitepaper highlighting the ‘fiscal mess’ created by the previous SAD-BJP regime along with some relief for distressed farmers and pro-people initiatives in the budget to deflate the claims of rival parties. The session will also see the tabling of the state bill for the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax, an official said. Punjab Congress Legislative Party (CLP) has convened a meeting later today to chalk out a strategy to counter the opposition onslaught. Likewise, the SAD-BJP and AAP will also hold their respective legislative party meetings tomorrow to come out with a foolproof plan to corner the government. “We shall be raising the issue of farmers’ suicides, farm debt waiver and sand mining mafia along with other pertinent issues,” AAP MLA and leader of opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, H S Phoolka said. The budget session is scheduled to commence tomorrow with obituary references and will adjourn sine-die after the proposed legislative business on June 23.
The state budget will be tabled on June 20 by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Opposition parties will take on the government on the farm debt waiver promise of the Congress, even as the government has formed an expert panel to assess the quantum of farm debt and suggest ways and means for its implementation.
SAD president Sukhbir Badal today said that farmer suicides have increased tremendously in the last three months with 70 farmers having taking the extreme step and in case the government did not waive loans, Punjab may be engulfed by law and order problems. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has already indicated that several important decisions with financial implications will be announced during the budget session to fulfill some key poll promises of his government.
Parties will also raise the issue of an alleged scam in the sand mining contracts auction, seeking resignation of Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh. Opposition has already rejected the decision for a probe by one man commission, a retired judge J S Narang, formed by the government. During the session, the government, which took over the reins on March 16, is expected to bring whitepaper on development, governance reforms and the financial position of the state, which will clearly “apprise the common man of the situation inherited by the present government.” In the last 10 years, the total debt of the state had ballooned from Rs 48,344 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 1,82,537 crore at the end of 2016-17. The mismatch between crop procured and payment made through cash credit limit led to face the burden of Rs 31,000 crore, a loan taken by previous government. The government may also bring a legislation on confiscation of drug dealers’ property during the session. In the 117-member Assembly, the strength of Congress is 77, AAP 20 and its ally LIP two, SAD 15 and its ally BJP three.