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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Punjab elections: Voters have little to choose between parties


Punjab elections: Voters have little to choose between parties

LUDHIANA: Barely a week before Punjab goes to the polls, Kippal Singh from Sahnewal near Ludhiana is yet to firm up his choice. Like many other debt-ridden farmers in the agrarian state, he is fed up with empty words and too-good-to-be-true promises being hurled at voters from every poll podium. 

Little has changed over the past three decades, the 55-year-old laments, despite both the Akali Dal andCongress getting ample opportunities to turn the tide in the state where the debt is likely to cross Rs 77,000 crore by the end of this fiscal. 

"It hardly matters who wins or loses, the Shiromani Akali Dal or Congress," he says, "They are all the same. We have to fight our battle for survival on our own." He says despite earnest promises by the political parties every five years his issues are yet to be addressed. He is still concerned about the MSP of wheat and paddy, waiver of farm loans, free tube-well connection and free power during the sowing and harvesting seasons. 

While Congress workers are exhorting him to attend party president Sonia Gandhi's rally in Samrala on Tuesday, he is far from enthused. He has been following all major political parties and formations on television, but he is yet to find anybody addressing the real issues with sincerity. 

The Sanjha Morcha - an alliance of the Manpreet Badal-led People's Party of Punjab, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) - did hold out some hope for people like Singh, but it was doused before long. 

"People had supported him initially because he had promised to field clean candidates. But with Manpreet fielding mostly Akali rebels, there is hardly any difference in ideology," says Lakhara Singh, Kirpal Singh's 65-year-old friend over a cup of steaming tea at a roadside dhaba. 

The sentiment runs deep across the state. "If it's just about the implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes, as the Congress is claiming, why was Captain Amarinder Singh not able to change Punjab while he was the chief minister," Kirpal Singh asks, "Why did the other Congress chief ministers - Beant Singh, Darbara Singh Beant, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal - fail?" 

"There is not even a second front in the state, what to talk of the third front (Sanjha Morcha)," says senior journalist and political analyst SP Singh, "Ideologically, Congress and Akalis are no different. The voter doesn't have an option."