Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni has been handpicked to lead the Congress campaigning committee ahead of the Punjab assembly polls 2017. She spoke to Divya Goyal and asserts that in ‘no case she will be someone’s shadow’. Excerpts:
Captain Amarinder Singh is now PPCC chief. However, the damage has already been done in the past two years and the Punjab Congress stands divided. How will you resolve this?
I want Congress supporters in Punjab to get over this Captain-Bajwa thing now. All has to be forgotten and they should move forward. If the Congress in Punjab has to come in power in 2017, there is no other way than unity. I will be bringing all party cadre together and tell them straight that what’s on and what’s not.
Why do you think you have been chosen to lead the campaign?
Let me tell put it straight. For me, it is neither Captain nor Bajwa – it is only the Congress. My neutrality, accessibility and objectivity will be my biggest assets in Punjab. My plus point is that I get along well with everyone in the party and I sort out differences through talks. Also, I have never been part of any controversy ever so that has always worked in my favour.
But some within the Congress view your appointment as that of a ‘dummy’ figure.
I can be very tough when required. If it is about discipline in the party, I would be straightforward and clearly say this is not going to work. I do not need to get harsh and rude for that but in no way will I be in anyone’s shadow. I have given my life for Congress and being comfortable with all – be it Captain or Bajwa – I know I will be able to handle the situation amicably. I will hold meetings with all MLAs soon and sort out things.
How would you describe your rapport with Captain?
I would say that it is warm, cordial and beyond politics. We have worked for years together and I can express myself freely to him. Wherever I would feel that it is not going the way it should, I would be open about it and he knows that. We are frank and candid with each other.
Is your neutrality the only reason for your selection or you feel that proximity with Sonia Gandhi has also played a part?
I have always been known for my work without any issues with anyone in Congress. I think apart from that the biggest factor is that I am not an aspirant for any plum post. I simply do not want any post and my only objective is to lead the Congress to victory in Punjab. Always working as committed part of organisation, I do not believe in getting rewards in return. Victory for the Congress would be my biggest reward.
What will be the role of Partap Singh Bajwa in 2017?
The Congress is a democratic party. Changes happen in every organisation and it is part of life. I share a cordial rapport with Bajwa – as I do with Captain. He is an integral part of Congress. I am yet to plan details of the campaign.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, AAP managed four seats in Punjab. They banked on youth votes. What will be your strategy to get the youth on board?
Our campaigning will be interactive and this is why youth leaders such as Ravneet Singh Bittu have been included in the team. Honestly, no one wants to listen to bhaashan (speeches) these days. Youth wants facts and that is what the Congress campaign will focus on. We will be taking up issues such as drugs and SAD hooliganism.
The Congress is known to delay crucial decisions. From announcing the list of candidates to Captain being named PPCC president, action comes after things get out of hand.
Yes, this is what even (Congress vice president) Rahul Gandhi has pointed out. We were very late in announcing some candidates in 2014. But we will ensure that the list for the 2017 Punjab assembly is announced at the earliest so that campaigning gets the required focus and time.