Venkat Raman –
A former Indian Federal Minister and Member of Parliament has commenced her election campaign on behalf of the Congress Party, saying that the Indian Diaspora on both sides of the Tasman has a major role to play as partners in development.
Preneet Kaur, who was Minister of State of External Affairs under the Dr Manmohan Singh government from 2009 to 2014 and a Member of Parliament elected from the Patiala Constituency in the general elections held in 1999, 2004 and 2009, is confident that her Party will return to power in the State elections in 2017.
Punjab in Crisis
“Punjab is in a terrible mess. Corruption has eaten into the vitals of the government and the society and there is disgruntlement everywhere. Punjab will regain its honourable status and dignity only if Congress returns to power,” she said.
Ms Kaur was in Auckland as a part of her visit to New Zealand (preceded and succeeded by Australia) to what she called, “reconnect with my people and seek their help in clearing the terrible mess in Punjab.”
Her husband, Captain Amarinder Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007 is undertaking a similar tour in the Northern Hemisphere to mobilise support for the Congress.
According to reports, the current government, born out of an alliance between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been embattled not only by internal strife but also by economic debacles compounded by severe shortage of electricity, water, deteriorating health standards, declining rates of growth and graft at various layers of the government. Sporadic outbursts of violence have also been a problem with the opposition casting its accusing finger at Mr Badal’s son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The SAD-BJP combo has not augured well for Punjab, Ms Kaur said.
“Punjab has slopped in the ‘India Today Poll’ from the top (Number 1) position to 19th last year, mainly because of government mismanagement and corruption. I am seeking the support of our people in Australia and New Zealand, because, despite being far away, some of them here for generations, they have neither forgotten their routes not lost their interest in their homeland. I have been appealing to them for support in our efforts to reinstate the honour and dignity of our State,” Ms Kaur said.
During her week-long stay in New Zealand, she addressed several meetings in Auckland including a business meeting organised by the India New Zealand Business Council on March 30 and Hamilton encouraging people to see the light of things. True to her trait as a spirited campaigner, she drew large crowds at every place of visit.
“People are genuinely worried that Punjab is in dire straits today. They are keen to restore their State to its former glory. I have seen our people really determined to help us in our tasks,” Ms Kaur said.
BJP and Congress are now diverting their energies into five five States which will go to polls shortly. They include Assam, West Bengal (April 4), Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu (May 16).
However, Punjab will be a key determinant to the future course of politics and with the entry of Aam Aadmi Party into the fray, the field is getting crowded. Convener Arvind Kejriwal believes that his Party will form the government next year since “the present dispensation is confronted with a tsunami of anti-incumbency.”
Ms Kaur could regain her popularity as she intensifies her campaign over the next months. Her husband Amarinder Singh belongs to the Royal family of Patiala which is now a district in the North Indian State of Punjab. The couple have a daughter (Jai Inder Kaur) and a son (Raninder Singh).
She leaves for Auckland today (April 1) to Australia to continue her tour before returning home. She is accompanied by Karan Brar, Member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly (elected from Muktsar) and Honey Sekhon, Officer on Special Duty.
Ms Kaur hopes to write a regular column Indian Newslink.