Congress secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday promised employment avenues, educational institutions and healthcare to women voters, striking a chord with them while addressing an all-women rally in Dhuri, the epicentre of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)â€™s politics. The AAP has fielded its chief ministerial candidate Bhagwant Mann from Dhuri.
Minutes earlier, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi announced eight free LPG cylinders for every household in a year, and Rs 1,100 per month to every woman for running the kitchen.
The announcements are an attempt to counter the Aam Aadmi Partyâ€™s (AAP) promise of Rs 1,000 per month for women in the state. Two days ago, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwalâ€™s wife Sunita Kejriwal was also in the constituency with her daughter to interact with women voters.
In Dhuri as well as Kotkapura, where Vadra addressed another rally earlier in the day, the Congress leader defended the partyâ€™s decision to remove Captain Amarinder Singh as chief minister as his â€œgovernment was being run by the BJP from Delhiâ€.
â€œWe had our government in the state for five years. But at one point, we sensed the neeyat (intent) of our government was changing. We immediately got into action and changed the government. Then Channi ji came. We knew Punjabis have nothing more important than Punjabiyat and they would not have taken it kindly that the government was being run by someone else. And now they are all together â€“ out in the open,â€ she said, without naming Singh, and while simultaneously taking a dig at the AAP for being based outside the state.
The AICC secretary also exhorted women in Punjab to sense the neeyat of political parties before voting for them and asked them to show patience in choosing the â€œright governmentâ€. Married to a Punjabi family, Vadra called herself â€œPunjab ki Betiâ€ and said she learnt the importance of â€œsach, sewa, mehnat our khuddariâ€ from her husbandâ€™s family.
Hailing Channi, she said, â€œChanni ji worked hard for 111 days. His government waived off the debt of farmers worth Rs 6,400 croreâ€¦ cheaper power worth Rs 1,500 croreâ€.
She said, â€œChanni ji ki neeyat theek hai. (Channiâ€™s intent is right.) He is from among you. He is from a poor family. He understands your troubles. Those who bow in front of others cannot run a good government.â€
Dhuri segment is represented by Congressâ€™s sitting MLA Dalvir Singh Goldy who is contesting for the second time. He is facing a formidable rival in Mann, who is the Sangrur MP. Dhuri is a part of the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency.
Hitting out at the AAP government in Delhi, Vadra said, â€œDo not go by what you are shown in advertisements in Delhi. I live in Delhi. I can tell you what all they have done there. They have not opened a single new school, not a single new healthcare institute. They just gave advertisements worth Rs 200 crore during Covid pandemic when people were dying of shortage of oxygen. You do not see the truth in advertisements. Truth is different, but what you are told is differentâ€.
She said the Chief Minister cannot take any decision in Delhi because the Centre has passed an Act that makes the Delhi CM powerless. â€œYou people have struggled against the farm laws. You fought for farmers for one year. Six farmers were run over by the son of a minister in UP. Did these people (AAP) fight for them?â€
Slamming the AAP, she said, â€œThese people just want to rule. They want just another state. Their heart does not beat for you. All these people sitting on the stage have Punjab in their hearts. These people will never ditch Punjab.â€
Channi announced from the stage that Goldy will be a minister in his Cabinet if the Congress is voted to power. The chief minister also made a reference to Mannâ€™s drinking habit and said the people whom he met in the region told him that Mann was never seen in the area. â€œThe people of Dhuri are not so thankless that they will not pay him back for the work he had done in the constituency,â€ Channi said.
Referring to Kejriwal, he said they wonâ€™t let outsiders rule the state. â€œWe respect migrants who come to work in our fields, but we would not let outsiders rule the state.â€
He said the state had several issues like those related to water sharing but Mann, an illiterate, would not know it as he would just put his thumb impression on the documents. â€œWe removed Amarinder Singh because he was mixed up with the BJP and Akalis. That nexus is now in the open,â€ Channi said.
He also promised to concretise all kuchha houses in the state. â€œI call on the wise women to get together and decide who to hand over the key of the state.â€
â€œBhagwant Mann will not become the CM. I am telling you. Kejriwal will become the CM. But Mann is not going to win,â€ he said.
A vibrant gathering of women, dressed in Congress colours cheered on as the leaders spoke. â€œWe want some relief from soaring prices. I will vote for the Congress. They will give me eight cylinders free,â€ said Labh Kaur of Kumbrah village, who attended the rally.
Another participant, Manjit Kaur from Ladda village, said, â€œIf we have to buy sarson oil for Rs 200, eight free cylinders would certainly help,â€ she said.
AICC in-charge Harish Chaudhary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, cabinet minister Razia Sultana and former PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar were also present at the rally.
Sidhu refuses to address crowd
PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu refused to address Sundayâ€™s rally in Dhuria in the presence of Vadra. When invited to speak, he gestured to indicate that he would not address the crowd and, instead, got up and folded his hands. Party candidate Dalvir Singh Goldyâ€™s wife Simrat, who was handling the stage, then invited Channi to address the gathering.