I would want a 2/3 majority to be able to set problems right, says Amarinder Singh

Punjab’s Congress chief Amarinder Singh, also a military historian, discusses Punjab electoral politics and Army morale speaks to Inidan Express.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Updated: October 28, 2016 10:00 am
Amarinder Singh, Parkash Singh Badal, Chitta Raavan, Congress, Punjab drugs, news, latest news, India news, national news, Punjab news Punjab’s Congress chief Amarinder Singh. (File)

Is anything working out between the Congress and Navjot Singh Sidhu?

I have no idea. He has not met me, he has not met the general secretary. But we have always said he is welcome to join the party, that our DNA is the same. We know nothing, neither does the general secretary of the party and she is here today. You once welcomed him, then called him a comedian and are now welcoming him again? I said in an interview that comedy was his profession… That is his profession. Somebody is a serious actor, someone does comedy. I have called Bhagwant Mann and Gurpreet Ghuggi of Aam Aadmi Party jokers… I have only met them at social functions where they have acted as comedians, so they are genuine comedians. I am not saying this as something derogatory about anyone else.

Partap Bajwa, former PPCC president, has said Sidhu’s inclusion would help the party. Partap is an MP now and a colleague but what he should remember is that he is an MP. I do not like his commenting on political matters that are not in his domain anymore… That we will give Punjab a present for Diwali and all that, this is all nonsense. What is he talking about? And that in any case is not his job. That is for me to say or my general secretary to say. I am the PCC president; where does he come into the picture?

How confident are you about the polls?

I think we are doing very good and are going up… But there are still three months to go and we have to push harder to really get a very sizeable majority. Frankly, I would want a two-thirds majority because there is going to be a problem coming up on water issues. We need the strength in the assembly to be able to set things right. The judgment of the Supreme Court is going to come very soon.

Do you see a challenge from Arvind Kejriwal, who has been visiting Punjab?

This [recent] visit has been a flop. In earlier visits people wanted to see him. I will tell you the reasons — Delhi is a Punjabi city and people get feedback about the happenings there from relatives, drug addiction has gone up there, water is not available. Secondly, here in Punjab the break-up of AAP and the MPs getting divided and Sucha Singh Chhotepur leaving have reduced their sheen. Forcing non-Punjabi leaders on the state is also going down very badly for them. And therefore his popularity is going down day by day. His [differences] with Modi will cause a huge loss to the state since the entire procurement of crops is done by the Centre.

You have been very disturbed over some recent decisions of the defence ministry.

It is all due to the downgrading of the status of military officers. They are asking for serious trouble. If you start downgrading the Army like this, morale is going to go down and then you are going to have a situation [that] when there are operations a low-morale Army cannot fight. Luckily we are not in that situation now.

What exactly are your concerns?

The bureaucracy is gradually taking over… The Seventh Pay Commission has further devalued the status of the defence services. You are demolishing the Army, you are ruining their morale, you are underpaying them. These are absurd things which you are doing… It started off in Pakistan this way also, and in Pakistan today the Army calls the shots. We do not want that and our Army and our defence services are not like that at all. But that does not mean that because they are a disciplined defence services and remain quiet you do not look after their interests. That is the job of the defence minister. [He] is not doing it, so the Prime Minister should intervene… The Pay Commission has made the defence services subservient to the paramilitary forces and the civil services. This is something which has to be immediately corrected. [Defence Minister] Parrikar said he did not know as his ministry may have put out some order… Such a major decision and the minister does not know.

Your political opponents say you are raising these issues because of election. Bhai yeh to meri family hai. What has the Opposition got to do with it and what have elections got to do with it? I have been raising these issues for years. Elections were not around the corner then.