Amritsar: Mocking at his own government in Punjab over power outages, Congress leader and former Cabinet minister Navjot Sidhu on Friday asked the government to follow the AAP’s Delhi model of extending subsidies to generation companies.
“There is no need for power cuts in Punjab or for the Chief Minister to regulate office timings or AC use of the Common People…If we act in the right direction,” said a sulking Sidhu, who met Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi separately in New Delhi on June 30 and apprised them of the political situation in Punjab that will go to the polls early next year.
Facing severe electricity crisis, the Punjab government curtailed timings of government offices from Friday, and cut down power supply to high energy consuming industries with immediate effect to save crops and ease the domestic power situation.
Sidhu, in a series of back-to-back tweets, said, “Punjab already gives Rs 9,000 crore power subsidy but Delhi gives only Rs 1,699 crore as power subsidy.
“If Punjab copies Delhi model, we will get merely Rs 1,600-2,000 crore as Subsidy. To better serve the people of Punjab — Punjab needs an original Punjab model, not a copied Model!!”
Indirectly hinting at a nexus between the government and power generating companies by revealing the truth of power costs, cuts, power purchase agreements and how to give free and 24-hour power to the people of Punjab, Sidhu said: “Punjab’s revenue per unit of consumption is one of the lowest in India, due to gross mismanagement of the complete power purchase and supply system…
“PSPCL pays Rs 0.18 per unit ‘extra’ on every unit supplied, even after receiving over Rs 9,000 crore in subsidy from the state.”
Favouring investing in renewable energy, that he said, is becoming cheaper along with being environmental-friendly, Sidhu said, “But Punjab’s potential from solar and biomass energy remains unutilised even though Central financial schemes can be availed for these projects.
“PEDA spends its time just on energy efficiency awareness”.
Speaking on the lines of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Sidhu explained that about the Punjab model for power by saying that the money spent on giving unreasonable and exuberant profits to private thermal plants should be utilised for welfare of people, i.e., giving power subsidy for free power for domestic use up to 300 units, 24 hours supply and to invest in education and healthcare.
According to Sidhu, Punjab is buying power at an average cost of Rs 4.54 per unit, while the national average is Rs 3.85 per unit and Chandigarh is paying Rs 3.44 per unit.
“Punjab’s over-dependence on three private thermal plants at Rs 5-8 per unit makes Punjab pay more than other states.”
Blaming the power purchase agreements (PPAs) that the previous Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP government had signed with three private thermal power plants, he said till 2020 Punjab has paid Rs 5,400 crore due to faulty clauses in these agreements. It is expected to pay Rs 65,000 crore of people’s money just as fixed charges.
Favouring the need to set aside the PPAs, Sidhu said the state can purchase power from the national grid at much cheaper rates. “But these Badal-signed PPAs are acting against Punjab’s public interest. Punjab may not be able to re-negotiate these PPAs due to them having legal protection from honourable courts, But there is a way forward.”
The cricketer-turned-politician had resigned from his post as a Cabinet Minister in the state on July 14, 2019 after differences with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh over portfolio allocation. Sidhu was in-charge of local bodies but was shifted to the Power Department.
Party sources said a section of the Congress central leadership wants to suitably compensate Sidhu, who has been pushed to sidelines, by making him as the state party chief.
However, a section of Hindu legislators, owing allegiance to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, are not accepting Sidhu’s induction. Their agreement is that the party cannot afford to have two Jat Sikh leaders in prominent roles — one as a Chief Minister and another as state party chief.
At a meeting with the Chief Minister here on Thursday, the Hindu leaders favoured the need to bring in a new Hindu face to replace incumbent Sunil Jakhar.
Sources said Sidhu’s common grouse against the government is going soft on former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family as their businesses are flourishing right under the nose of the government.
Sidhu’s Friday’s assertions on power outages came days after AAP national convenor Kejriwal kicked off the campaign in the state by announcing free and subsidised electricity in the state, a tested formula of his own in the national capital.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on June 29, Kejriwal offered free electricity up to 300 units and promised to waive all the old electricity bills and arrears, if AAP forms the government in Punjab.
Speculations in political circles are rife that Sidhu may join the AAP ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.