Why Captain Asked Manmohan & Montek to Help Punjab Post-Lockdown
By bringing on board Manmohan Singh & Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh has pulled off a coup
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former deputy chairperson of the erstwhile planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia will be helping the Punjab government revive the state’s economy after the COVID-19 lockdown.
By bringing on board two of the biggest names in economic policy in India, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has pulled off a bit of a coup.
On Monday, 27 April, the chief minister tweeted:
On 25 April, the Punjab government had constituted a group of experts headed by Ahluwalia to recommend a “short-term as well as medium-term action plan” to including a “fiscal management strategy” to revive the state’s economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.
The 20-member group has been mandated to submit its initial set of recommendations by 31 July followed by two more reports by September 30 and December 31 this year.
What is Captain’s Plan?
But the decision to involve Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia isn’t just about providing advice and submitting recommendations.
A great deal also has to do with Captain’s own political calculations. Captain wants to project himself as “the leader who revived Punjab’s fortunes”.
With his peers among Congress CMs like Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh receiving praise for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis, Captain wants to make a mark as far as economic revival is concerned. And Punjab’s challenges are many, especially with the lockdown affecting the Rabi harvest and the state reeling under a massive labour shortage.
The presence of Dr Singh and Ahluwalia would bring a great deal of legitimacy to the measures taken by the Amarinder Singh government, which by most accounts has had an indifferent tenure so far.
The presence of Dr Singh in particular would politically strengthen Amarinder’s own position as well. Ever since he began his term as Punjab CM in 2017, there has been speculation that he would be replaced by someone younger either in the middle of his term or just before the next Assembly elections.
This isn’t the first time that Amarinder has sought out the former PM. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Captain had tried to convince Dr Singh to contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in Punjab. The former PM declined and the seat was won by Congress Gurjant Singh Aujla who defeated central minister Hardeep Puri.
With Congress’ central leadership in a flux, Captain has made a smart move to consolidate his position by bringing Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia on board. But now the difficult part begins - to deliver on the promise of reviving Punjab’s economy.
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