Sukhbir Singh Badal, deputy chief minister of Punjab and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), was at the Express Group for an Idea Exchange. In this session moderated by Assistant Editor Maneesh Chhibber, The Indian Express, Badal speaks about reforms in the state, vendetta politics and estranged cousin Manpreet Badal
Maneesh Chhibber: State elections are due next year in Punjab, can you tell us what your achievements are in this term?
We formed the government four years ago. We were very focused, we wanted to remove the weaknesses and strengthen the positive aspects of our state. Our weaknesses are that we are a landlocked state, surrounded by Pakistan and the troubled state of J&K. Also, other states around us receive incentives from the centre. We are an island nobody wants to come to. So we have focused on ways to attract people to our state, and hence, reduce our weaknesses. A landlocked state can develop only if it’s connected with a port. During my father’s last term as CM, we got Amritsar International Airport operational. This time, we got Mohali International Airport cleared, and another at Machhiwara in a joint venture with Singapore Airlines. We got Bathinda airport cleared, and flights from Pathankot and Ludhiana became operational. Punjab is now among the most well-connected states in the country.
Our second weakness was power shortage. Punjab’s production capacity was 5,000 MW and the demand was 9,000 MW. In the last four years, we have added over 10,000 MW. The third step was to link all our major cities with a road network. We cleared major projects and within two years, all major towns will be connected with four-lane roads. On irrigation, we have spent over Rs 2,000 crore. Today, there is large-scale investment in infrastructure, which is showing results and attracting more investment.
Vandita Mishra: Reforms that your government has spoken of—administrative, power, e-governance, etc., have not been implemented. Can you implement them before the elections?
My purpose of reforms is not elections. If I say my aim is to make Punjab power surplus, people will talk about power cuts. But people who had coolers now have ACs, those who had ACs now have centrally air-conditioned plants. To make a power plant functional, you need at least seven years. For 2,600 MW, you need to acquire 2,600 acres, you need water and coal linkages, environmental clearance—this process takes three to four