National

AAP jolts Punjab with promise of free power

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 30, 2021

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on Tuesday   -  PTI

While Congress faces internal rift and SAD and BJP on the backfoot over farm laws, Arvind Kejriwal hopes to brighten AAP’s prospects in the upcoming Assembly polls

Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday timed his poll promise of free electricity in Punjab with implosions in the ruling Congress and the Opposition – Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP — scurrying to find breathing space amid the still ongoing anti-farm laws protests.

Kejriwal’s visit to Punjab was preceded by some colourful exchanges with the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh dismissing AAP’s whining about not being allowed to hold a press conference in Chandigarh.

Punjab CM counters

“Totally not true. We let Arvind Kejriwal address a rally here just a few days back so why should we stop him now from having a press conference? If he wants I’d be happy to arrange his lunch too. AAP just wants to do drama even if it means lying,” accused the Punjab CM.

‘Repeat Delhi model’

On arrival, Kejriwal assured “24/7 free power supply”. “We did this in Delhi and we will do it in Punjab. Up to 300 units, electricity will be free for people of Punjab if AAP forms a government here. In Delhi, about 73 per cent people get zero electricity bills. In Punjab, the number will be close to 77 to 80 per cent,” said Kejriwal.

He assured, once in power, the AAP government will restore power connections of those who had supply disconnected for not paying arrears.

AAP’s entry in Punjab is significant in the context of the weakening BJP and erosion of the SAD which has recently tied up with the BSP to gather some strength. The SAD-BJP alliance had come apart in Punjab last year after the Centre pushed the three farm reform laws resulting in farmers, largely from Punjab, protesting for the last seven months.

Vote share

Even when the SAD-BJP alliance fought the Lok Sabha elections, AAP had secured 7.46 per cent of vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and won one seat. SAD and BJP had polled 27.7 per cent and 9.7 per cent vote share respectively and won two seats each. The Congress was ahead with 40.57 per cent vote and eight Lok Sabha seats. Even in the Assembly polls in February-March, 2017, AAP had secured an impressive 23.72 per cent of the vote share and 20 seats while the SAD and BJP together had managed to secure 18 seats. Congress was the clear winner with 38.5 per cent of the vote share and 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly.

But while Amarinder Singh is facing a big rift in his party with his detractor Navjot Singh Sidhu apparently holding a meeting in Delhi with the party leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday and SAD on the backfoot over farm laws, AAP seeks to brighten its prospects in Punjab, beginning with the promise of free electricity.

Published on June 29, 2021

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