Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal with Punjab AAP president Bhagwant Mann during a recent visit to Punjab.
Both the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and Congress are recklessly promising freebies running into thousands of crores to the people in a desperate bid to woo voters in Punjab but the million dollar question left unanswered is: Where is the money going to come from?
Interestingly, Punjab has an annual budget of Rs 1.50 lakh crores while the state is trapped in a crushing debt burden of a whopping Rs 2.75 lakh crore on which interest has to be paid. The state government has not even been able to pay the salaries of school teachers and doctors in time who have been protesting over the issue.
The freebies announced by AAP and the Congress are in addition to what was earlier given free of cost by the Akali Dal government led by Parkash Singh Badal which included free power supply to the farm sector, free shaggan scheme to Dalit girls and free “atta daal scheme.”
AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the first one to start the game by announcing 300 units of free electricity to all domestic consumers in Punjab followed by a promise to pay Rs 1000 to all women above 18 years of age in the state.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal was quick to follow with the announcement of paying Rs 2000 to each woman in the state.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) also promised to pay Rs 2000 to each woman in the state and in addition made an offer to provide 8 gas cylinders every year free of cost to about 55 lakh households in Punjab. A gas cylinder costs Rs 930 each in the state.
As per estimates, there are 1 crore women voters in Punjab (above the age of 18 years). This means that every month Kejriwal will need Rs 1000 crore, Sukhbir will require Rs 2000 crore while Sidhu will need Rs 2500 crore a month. Besides, Sidhu has also promised free scootys to all girls passing out of school and joining college.
Even Sidhu's exaggerated projection of collecting Rs 50,000 crore by plugging loopholes in the tax system will not be insufficient.