CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said today that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has the potential to become the Prime Minister of the country adding that the time was also right for a generational change in the party.
The Punjab chief minister said he had always found the AICC vice president "extremely perceptive and decisive".
There was a "deliberate" attempt to undermine Rahul's image by calling him names and he has potential to become the Prime Minister of the country, Amarinder said. The time was right for a generational change in the Congress to cater to the aspirations of the over 70 per cent youth population of the country, he said.
Referring to incidents along the LoC, the chief minister said while killings and skirmishes had been going on for long, the kind of brutality we see now was not there earlier.
Incidents like the recent mutilation of the bodies of two Indian jawans were understandably provoking the wrath of the people and the Indian Army needed to counter such acts effectively, he asserted.
However, striking a note of caution, he said that in the long term, both India and Pakistan needed to think about peace and the future of the coming generations.
The chief minister exuded confidence over the response by investors and industry to the change in dispensation in the state, saying his government had, in just six weeks, been able to build their confidence.
He endorsed his claim by adding that the Bathinda refinery was all set for a Rs 20,000 crore expansion.
Amarinder said his government had succeeded in creating the right enabling environment for the elimination of drugs, which were now becoming increasingly less available, as was evidenced in the spike in their prices.
The number of youth going to rehabilitation centres was another indication that his government had successfully broken the backbone of the drugs mafia, said the Chief Minister.
However it would be difficult to wean youth completely away from drugs without giving them employment, to which his government was committed, Amarinder said.
With 90 lakh youth in Punjab either unemployed or underemployed, his government was going all out with efforts to generate employment, he added.
Referring to the state of agriculture in Punjab, the Chief Minister said his government was working to encourage farmers, about 70 percent of whom were small farmers, to diversify and shift from paddy to high cash crops.
Such small farmers, with less than 5 acres each of land, could not survive imposition of taxes, he added referring to a suggestion by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy to tax farm income.
However NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya had said that the question of levying taxes from agricultural income does not arise.
Amarinder gave credit to the previous Akali government in the state for creating surplus power.
He however came down heavily on the Shiromani Akali Dal leadership for the huge debt they had left behind, leaving the Congress government with no money to pay salaries or for development.
The state government was working to improve education and health in the state, said Captain Amarinder, adding that without good schooling, higher education remained a problem, which was also reflected in the fact that Punjabis were not faring too well in competitive exams, including those for Army recruitment.
Without mincing words, Captain Amarinder once again repeated that Khalistani sympathisers sitting in Canada were misleading people with false information and he would not allow the peace and stability of Punjab to be destroyed by such elements at any cost.
The Chief Minister said while Punjabi language accorded due prominence, it was important also to promote English to enable the youth to find jobs in the competitive global market.