To Take on Punjab CM, Opposition in Mood to Make Power Crisis ‘Electoral Issue’

As Punjab is witnessing unprecedented power shortage since the last few days, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has come under attack by Opposition as rival parties seem to be in mood to make electricity crisis as a major electoral issue and play it up ahead of state assembly elections.

The Opposition has been blaming the Congress-led government for failing to ensure round-the-clock power to people of the state. As part of the measures to deal with the power shortage, the PSPCL has already cut down power supply to the industry including rolling mills and induction furnaces till July 11.

Besides, the state government has already directed government offices to function from 8 am till 2 pm till July 10 with a ban on use of air conditioners.

Punjab on Friday faced further crisis with the Talwandi Sabo power plant shutting down completely, just a day after state-owned Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Power Plant at Ropar and another 210 MW unit of Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant at Lehra Mohabat, developed snags, forcing them to be shut down.

The state has witnessed unscheduled power cuts being imposed on domestic, urban, rural, agriculture and commercial consumers. For several days now, people protested at various places in Punjab against the erratic power supply. The industry too was forced to face the heat with largescale units closed till July 11.

While reacting on the same, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal targeted the Congress-led government in Punjab in a series of tweets and said, “Captain Amarinder Singh beg, borrow, buy power; scrap or sign any agreement, do what it takes but give power 24×7 to domestic, minimum 8 hours daytime to farmers and industry. Stop looking up to skies/rain gods. Deliver or quit. People need power, not excuses. And need it now.”

Under attack from the Opposition, Captain Amarinder tried to deflect some of the criticism by Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) signed during the time of the Akali Dal government and even promised a re-look but the opposition seems unfazed. “The PPAs are faculty but what about the mismanagement done by the government agencies in managing the crisis. In this sweltering heat, the consumers are without power, even farmers are not getting adequate supply.

This is a crisis that will spell doom for the government,” said AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema.

With the paddy season on, the government has its back to the walls trying to provide adequate power supply to the farms. “We demand compensation to the Industry. Why punish them for your inefficiency,” demanded Badal.

Meanwhile, Punjab Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa has questioned the role of the bureaucracy in “perpetuating” the power crisis. He wrote a letter to the Chief Minister demanding that the officers must be held accountable for failure to anticipate the impending crisis. He said power consumption had risen from 10,155 MW in 2014-15 to 13,148 MW in 2021-22. But the PSPCL had made no arrangements to fill the demand and supply gap.

He pointed out that the 440 MW Bathinda and Ropar thermal plants were shut despite stiff opposition by engineers. “The Lehragaga thermal plant was closed on June 23 while one unit of the Talwandi Sabo plant was shut on March 8,” he wrote, urging the Chief Minister to renegotiate or cancel the power purchase agreements with these plants.

What has compounded the problem for the government is that due to delayed monsoon, Punjab’s demand for power has shot up to 15000 MW, though its availability, including additional buying from the power exchange, is limited to about 12800 MW.

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