Chandigarh has been deliberately ignored in allocation of funds and one of the country's oldest varsities, the Panjab University, was also starved of funds, Congress nominee and former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said.
Besides bringing in funds for Chandigarh from the Centre, restoring the glory and prestige of the city known for its tree cover, lush green parks and gardens are his other top priorities.
"I will bring requisite funds from the Centre for health, education and all-round development of the city," Bansal told IANS in an interview here on Tuesday.
"My agenda includes need for immediate beautification of the city with zero tolerance to garbage in public places," the four-time lawmaker said.
He blamed the Centre for ignoring Chandigarh in giving it its due in terms of funds, connectivity and upgradation in the health and education sectors.
The 137-year-old Panjab University's bare survival is at stake due to the shortage of funds, he added.
Starting the metro as a mode of mass rapid transport, allowing need-based changes in Chandigarh Housing Board flats, curbing crime, regularisation of all employees and a transparent transfer policy, ease of doing business, opening of an Indian Institute of Technology, rollback of penalty notices to commercial establishments and industry and reservation for local youth in government jobs are also his other areas of focus.
The Union Territory of Chandigarh is all set for a triangular contest on May 19. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained its outgoing MP Kirron Kher, who is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded former Aviation Minister Harmohan Dhawan, a rebel BJP MP who had supported Kher in the previous Lok Sabha election.
"I do not know of any Modi factor in India. In Chandigarh, people have felt they were let down during the last five years," he said.
Residents of Chandigarh need someone who connects with the city and shares the joy and pain of the people; they need a "man next-door", he said.
"If there was any Modi factor in the last Lok Sabha elections, there is none now because people know that despite having an MP of the ruling party with Modi as Prime Minister, Chandigarh has been badly neglected and her performance was dismal."
Blaming Kher, who defeated her nearest rival Bansal by nearly 70,000 votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he said she has not been able to develop a rapport with the city residents or even with BJP workers.
Perhaps, her celebrity status came in her way all through, Bansal said.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached Rs 89.68 lakh cash in a money laundering case involving Bansal's nephew, just days before elections to the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat.
On this, he said that the "timing says it all".
"I am a prosecution witness in the case. Dragging me mischievously in a case of which I am a prosecution witness proves that the BJP has already smelled defeat in Chandigarh. Hence, Kirron Kher and her party are now trying all desperate means to defame me," he said.
"I have repeatedly sought an open debate with Kirron on probity in public life and personal life and also development but she has declined to join. In one case, after having agreed to a debate, she backed out just before the television programme was to begin."
Commenting on the performance of his rival candidates, he replied: "Kirron Kher has no ground to stand on in Chandigarh and Dhawan has earned the sobriquet of master party-hopper."
Nearly 6.2 lakh voters, including 40,000 new voters, will choose their next MP from Chandigarh on May 19, the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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