Gurdaspur MP and Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar talks about his party’s prospects in the state in an interview with Jyotika Sood. Excerpts:
What is your take on the Congress manifesto?
It’s not just a manifesto, but a memorandum of commitment. Rahul Gandhi has gone in for something doable, instead of getting dragged into competitive populism. When you compare Modi’s 2014 promise of Rs 15 lakh to NYAY’s Rs 72,000, it seems nothing, but people believe it is doable. Similarly, jobs for 30-35 lakh people doesn’t sound as huge as 2 crore, but it is an achievable target.
Don’t you think NYAY beats the purpose of the Congress’s flagship scheme MGNREGA?
NYAY is a complimentary to MGNREGA. The latter focused only on rural India while NYAY focusses both on the urban and the rural.
How many seats are you eyeing?
Our target is 13. Finally, the people have to decide. But looking at the response and the way the opposition has disintegrated, we are confident.
Do you think AAP’s charm has fizzled out in Punjab?
People feel betrayed by them. AAP came up with this alternate, 'moral high ground' politics, but I think they have disappointed people.
What would be the issues that would dominate votes in Punjab?
There are several, but the main ones are rural distress, unemployment and drugs. The Congress government under Capt Amarinder Singh has done tremendous work. We have managed to bring down farmer suicides in Punjab from 1,000 a year to around 300. Similarly, in the last two years the state government has broken the supply chain of drug peddling in the state along with programs like 'Buddy'. There's also free medical treatment to rescue addicts.