Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar on Sunday slammed the Bhagwant Mann government, accusing it of pushing the state on the brink of financial calamity with an addition of Rs 50,000 crore debt since coming to power year-and-a-half ago.
His remarks come two days after Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit in his letter to chief minister Mann said that he has learnt that "the debt of Punjab rose by about Rs 50,000 crore during your regime".
Responding to the letter written by the Punjab Governor, senior AAP leader and Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema said that the Governor should not talk about Punjab's debt because ''we have inherited the debt of Rs 3 lakh crore from the previous Akali-BJP and Congress governments''.
Despite repaying the loan instalment and interest, the AAP government is doing very good work for the welfare of the people of Punjab, Cheema added.
Appealing to the Governor, Cheema said that there is a lot of hindrance in the development work of rural areas of Punjab because the Centre is not releasing this fund for some years now. "If the Governor is really concerned about Punjab then he should fulfill his duty towards the state and talk to the Central government and help the Punjab government to get the pending amount of RDF which is about Rs 5000 crores," he said.
What Jakhar said
"In the just last four months, from April till July-end this year, the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab) has already taken Rs 11,718 crore as loan," BJP leader Jakhar said in a statement.
Jakhar claimed that if unchecked, the AAP government's "misrule" would crush Punjab with another burdensome Rs 1.75 lakh crore of debt till the end of its term. The total debt of the state at present stands at Rs 2.82 lakh crore, he said. Citing a report of the office of the principal accountant general, he claimed that out of the Rs 11,718 crore, just Rs 900 crore was spent constructively, and the "rest has gone up in smoke at the whims and fancies of the incumbent dispensation". The present government, Jakhar alleged, "thrives on fake propaganda, advertisements and personal aggrandisement". "I thank governor sahib for setting the proverbial cat amongst the pigeon by asking from Bhagwant Mann ji about the utilisation details of about Rs 50,000 crore which this present government has burdened Punjabis with", Jakhar said in the statement.
"Given the track record, I am not very hopeful of a genuine response by the AAP leadership to very apt queries raised by the governor," he said, adding that "thanks to the governor's missive, Punjabis of all hues have started asking - 'where is the money, Mann Sahib'?" Jakhar alleged that both chief ministers of Delhi and Punjab befooled people by their tact of lying unabashedly.
Targeting Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, Jakhar asked, "Where are those Rs 40,000 crore additional revenue to be generated from transparent auctioning of sand pits and sale of alcohol which Kejriwal ji used to scream about during the (Punjab) assembly elections."
Sidhu jumps in
Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu also slammed the AAP government in Punjab over the debt issue.
Punjab is facing a serious debt crisis and the state's debt-to-GDP ratio is nearing 50 per cent, much higher than the national average, he claimed. "The state's debt is now at an unsustainable level," Sidhu posted on X.
"The governor of Punjab in a letter to the chief minister (Mann) has clearly mentioned Rs 50,000 crore increment in the debt taken by the incumbent Mann government in one year and six months, amounting to about debt increment of about Rs 70,000 crore in two years, the numbers say that economic crisis stares at us," Sidhu posted on X.
He alleged that the rapid increase in the state's debt was the result of "continued corruption and vote bank politics of the AAP".
"The politics of freebies is hitting Punjab in irreparable ways, PSPCL (power utility) borrowings from banks are more than Rs 18,000 crore, loans for digital meter installation at 9,641 crore in addition to this arrears of subsidy and outstanding bills from the Punjab government at Rs 9,020 crore and Rs 2,548 crore respectively. PSPCL today is mortgaged and sold out," he said.
The former minister asked the AAP government to clarify whether the state will be run on borrowings or income.