Tensions within the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), comprising the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), appear to be escalating. The Congress has raised questions about the financial situation of the Bhagwant Mann-led government in Punjab after Governor Banwarilal Purohit requested details from the state regarding the utilization of a substantial ₹50,000 crore loan.
The newly formed Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is witnessing strains in the partnership between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), particularly in Punjab, where Governor Banwarilal Purohit has requested details from the state government regarding the utilization of a substantial ₹50,000 crore loan.
In response to Governor Purohit’s letter to the Punjab government, Congress leader Alok Sharma raised questions on Sunday about the alleged ₹50,000 crore debt under the AAP-led government and demanded an explanation for the state’s financial predicament.
“It’s based on facts that when Bhagwant Mann took oath, he immediately sought financial support of ₹50,000 crore from the Centre,” Sharma stated.
He continued, “AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal used to claim that the government would recover the money. Now, the AAP government must clarify why the state is burdened with such a massive loan.”
Sharma further alleged that the AAP government used the loan funds to renovate old buildings in Punjab and staged a “drama of creating Mohalla clinics,” ultimately damaging the state’s economy. “They have put the state’s economy in jeopardy,” he asserted.
VIDEO | Congress leader Alok Sharma questioned the AAP-led Punjab government on Sunday over the alleged Rs 50,000 crore debt and asked them to answer why the state was facing such a situation.
"It’s based on facts that when Bhagwant Mann took oath, he immediately went to Centre… pic.twitter.com/qZuc6Z6xWH
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) September 25, 2023
The issue came to the forefront when Bhagwant Mann urged the governor to intervene in the matter of the pending Rural Development Fund (RDF) amounting to ₹5,637 crore. In response, Purohit advised the chief minister to await the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter.
While acknowledging the chief minister’s request for his intervention, Purohit sought detailed information on how the ₹50,000 crore loan raised during the current government’s tenure had been utilized. He mentioned, “The state’s debt increased by approximately ₹50,000 crore during your leadership. Please provide details of how this substantial amount has been utilized so that I can convincingly explain to the Prime Minister that the funds have been put to proper use.
In response to Purohit’s letter, Punjab’s Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema emphasized that the governor should refrain from discussing the state’s financial obligations. He pointed out that the current administration had inherited a debt of ₹3 lakh crore from previous governments.
Cheema stated, “We are obligated to pay substantial sums in interest on the ₹3 lakh crore debt accumulated by the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and Congress governments in the past. Despite repaying loan installments and interest, the AAP government is actively working for the welfare of Punjab’s citizens.”
No AAP-Congress Alliance in Punjab?
Although top AAP leaders have aligned with opposition parties, including the Congress, to challenge the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Cabinet Minister Anmol Gagan Maan has declared that there will be no alliance between the ruling AAP and the Congress in the state.
Gagan Maan asserted that the AAP would contest all 13 seats in the Lok Sabha elections under Chief Minister Mann’s leadership, without any seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress.
This statement by the AAP minister signifies that there is a clear divide between the state units of the two parties, potentially impacting the INDIA bloc’s aim to contest the Lok Sabha elections jointly.
While some Punjab Congress leaders have opposed any collaboration with the ruling party, believing that seat-sharing with the AAP would be detrimental to the Congress in the state, Punjab Congress Chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring announced that the Congress would contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab independently.