The Akalis and the Congress have nothing in common. They believe in plundering and looting the people of Punjab, says Amarinder Singh.
Capt. Amarinder Singh, Punjab Congress president, is carrying out a series of roadshows in the run-up to the the Punjab Assembly elections. During one such roadshow from Rajura to Patiala, Mr Singh spoke to Tanveer Thakur about the present political situation in Punjab.
Navjot Singh Sidhu is joining Congress soon. What role do you see for him in the party? Since he has criticised you in the past, won’t you find it difficult to work with him keeping in view his volatile temperament?
Let Sidhu join first. You would surely get to know his role when he’s on board. I do not see any problems in working together. I’ve always maintained that Sidhu has Congress blood in his veins and he thinks and feels like a Congressman. In such circumstances, I don’t see any temperamental or other differences cropping up to mar the relationship that the Congress has struck with his Awaz-e-Punjab. Our goals are the same and we shall focus on working towards them, without allowing any extraneous factors to divert us from the same.
The AAP is surging in Punjab. Has Congress managed to turn the tide in its favour, if yes then how?
Personally, I don’t think AAP was ever a party with a surge in Punjab. Where is the question of having a surge when it never even had a presence in the state? AAP was always an outsider party trying to exploit the election opportunity for its petty vested interests. Arvind Kejriwal himself has no connect with either the state or its people, with his loyalties clearly somewhere else (as he has proved by his persistent silence on the SYL issue). So there is really no question of turning the tide. The tide was always in favour of the Congress in Punjab, and as the polls draw closer, it is getting stronger.
Both AAP and Akalis have announced majority of Assembly tickets while the Congress is yet to announce a single ticket so far. Even during the last Punjab Assembly elections, it was believed that Congress lost due to delay in its tickets announcement. What is holding back Congress from ticket announcement?
Frankly, we are not in a race with the Akalis or the AAP for declaration of candidates. As a large party, with a large base, choosing the right candidate is a big task for the Congress. And we want to be sure that we don’t go wrong.
We want to be sure that our candidates are clean and honest, not corrupt and greedy like the AAP and Akali candidates. This naturally means we need to be careful about choosing the right candidates.
In Congress, we have several rungs through which the selection process goes before the final decision can be taken by the party president Sonia Gandhi, as authorised by the state unit. This is done to ensure proper and impeccable selection.
So the time taken for selection of candidates is naturally longer. In any case, the polls are still some three months away, so it would not be correct to say that there is any delay, per se, in ticket allocation.
The AAP has released a dalit manifesto and also promised to make a dalit deputy chief minister if voted to power. What are your party’s plans for the dalits who are sizeable part of the electorate?
We have our manifesto committee who look into the issues that deal with dalits. As far other issues are concerned all such decisions are taken by our national party president.
The AAP has charged you of having tacit understanding with Akalis. How do you react to such charges?
Only an intellectually and morally bankrupt person like Kejriwal can think of the Congress having an alliance with the Akalis. We are fighting tooth and nail with Akalis to rescue the people of Punjab from their misrule. The Akalis and the Congress have nothing in common. They believe in plundering and looting the people of Punjab; we believe in people’s welfare. They are only interested in filling their coffers, even at the cost of the lives of the people, while for us there is nothing more important than ensuring a free and safe environment where all sections of the society can nurture and grow.
Even if we were to consider for a moment that we could look at such a partnership or to forge an opportunistic alliance, it has to have some logic. There has to be some commonality of principles between two parties seeking to join hands. Where is the commonality between the Akalis and us? And frankly, why would we want to back a losing horse?
The Congress has promised to waive off farmer loans in Punjab. Akalis call it a mere poll plank (jumla). Do you have a clear roadmap to implement this promise?
Of course, we have a clear roadmap on implementing all our promises, including waiver of farmer debts. We are aware of the extent of the problem and have a clear idea on the way forward. The Akalis will naturally call our promises jumlas, since that’s the only thing they know of. For them, promises are meant to be broken, and hence they assume the same for others too. But the people of Punjab know that I’ve always kept every single promise made to them. I had waived off loans, as promised, even earlier, and will do so again.
Do you think demonetisation could be a poll issue in Punjab?
Demonetisation is definitely a big issue, and has already taken centrestage for all political parties not just in Punjab but also in other states across the country.
But then, let me clarify that it’s not the only issue. There are other issues too in Punjab, including SYL, law and order breakdown, absence of civil administration, the Badals-led mafia raj, drugs menace, illicit liquor trade, economic collapse, industrial and agrarian devastation — all these issues will play a role in influencing the voters.