In this Idea Exchange moderated by Editor (Punjab) Vipin Pubby, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal calls Arvind Kejriwal a “media creation”, the CBI “one of the most corrupt organisations” and says that he sees the NDA winning 13/13 in Punjab
Vipin Pubby: You have been saying that the Centre has been discriminating against Punjab when it comes to funds. What needs to be done to undo the situation?
Badal: The devolution of funds for Punjab has come down from 3 per cent to 1.3 per cent over the years. In terms of actual amount, Uttar Pradesh gets Rs 90,000 crore from the Centre, we get Rs 3,000 crore. The Centre discourages developed states in order to subsidise the unwanted expenditure of underdeveloped states. The criteria for distribution of funds should not be population, poverty and backwardness. It should be based on how much the state is contributing.
Charanjit Ahuja: Special industrial concessions have been given to the hill states neighbouring Punjab. Has it impacted the state’s economy?
Badal: Yes, it has. We have taken it up with the Centre without success and will take it up again when the new government comes to power.
Rakesh Rocky: How is the Sukhbir model of development different from the Modi model of development?
Badal: There is no comparison. The problems of Gujarat are very different from the problems of Punjab. The circumstances are different. You have to dovetail your policies according to your needs.
Virender Kumar: All the schemes you talk about are financed by the Centre.
Badal: That’s not true. For instance, not a single penny for e-governance has come from the Centre. The state has to work hard for Central schemes too. It is not something that falls into your lap. My team sat for 15 days in Delhi to get JNNURM funds worth Rs 4,800 crore. The Government of India is like a bank — you go and get money from it. But how you use it depends on you. I have worked out a model for my state.
Jaskiran: Has the Aam Aadmi Party emerged as a political alternative to the BJP and Congress because people are frustrated with these two parties?
Badal: No. Arvind Kejriwal came to power using words which people loved to hear. Take the words ‘aam aadmi’. In a party which has millionaires and billionaires, where is the aam aadmi? As an income tax officer, did Kejriwal go after top businessmen? He should tell us, if he is such a fair man, what he did as an IT officer. He is a creation of the media. Now he is after you (the media) and the media will now demolish him.
Vandana Sharma: What about the issue of corruption that AAP has taken up?
Badal: Arvind Kejriwal was chief minister for, what, 49 days? He was taking decisions left, right and centre. Did he take any decision to eliminate corruption? Corruption cannot be tackled through a Lokpal. It is like saying that setting up a police station will end rapes and murders. Lokpal is another CBI. The CBI is one of the most corrupt organisations, doing just what governments tell it to do… giving clean chits on order. If Lalu (Prasad Yadav) joins them (the UPA), he is given a clean chit. Same with Mayawati. Have you seen her palaces? And the Income Tax department says she is clean. Corruption can end only through a change in systems. Not by creating another corrupt organisation. You have cut off the interaction between the common man and the government. If everything is online and every payment is through credit cards, where is corruption? What we need is administrative reform and that’s the direction we are going in.
Charanjit Ahuja: Do you think AAP will have any impact in Punjab? Also, how do you rate your alliance’s prospects in the next elections?
Badal: AAP talks about being a party against corruption. It is giving tickets to people who are former terrorists. The aam aadmi tag is being used to camouflage everything. They think all misdeeds can be covered under one banner. They think that they will be able to repeat what happened in Delhi, where it was a people’s movement. That movement has not taken off in Punjab or any other part of the country. Coming to our prospects in the Lok Sabha elections, we are expecting a clear verdict in Punjab. I will give you my prediction. It will be 10 plus in the state in our favour. And don’t be surprised if it is 13 on 13, the way things are going.
Khushboo Sandhu: What are the factors that you think will work in your favour?
Badal: Our agenda is economy and development. The chief minister’s equation with the BJP is such that Modi at the helm will not be able to say no to our chief minister for anything. The state is going to benefit a lot. In the last 10 years, whatever development we did was from the state’s own account, and that was minimal. Now there will be an ocean available for us. We have already chalked out what we want. Second, the Congress is completely disintegrated. They do not want to fight the elections. It is perceived as a party that is going down. Also, Rahul Gandhi, the way he is going, I think he will perform his party’s last rites on May 16. The last is the Modi factor. People are so unhappy with the 10-year rule of the Congress that they are unanimous about giving Modi a chance.
Tanbir Dhaliwal: You talk of development, but schools in Punjab are without infrastructure, hospitals are without doctors and teachers are without jobs.
Badal: Development does not mean promising people that Punjab will become a Singapore or a Dubai. We must compare where we were and what we have achieved in a short time, using limited resources. First of all, power — we have been able to achieve our targets. Road network — projects are at various stages. In three years from now, every road in Punjab will be four- to six-laned. In three years, 140 towns, small, big and medium, will have complete sewerage and water supply. I cannot change things overnight. It is a gradual process, even with huge resources. With limited resources, it is slower. We have a master plan, we know where we are going. Development cannot be one thing after the other. It is doing a lot of things simultaneously. By the end of this year, the whole of Punjab will be e-governed. You will get most services sitting at home if you have a computer. In villages, we are setting kiosks where, for a small fee, villagers can get the same services.
Ifrah Mufti: Does this master plan include providing desks to students in schools?
Badal: All the schools will be provided basic infrastructure. We have already decided that.
Rakesh Rocky: Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) had secured more than 4.5 per cent votes in 2012. What effect will the PPP-Congress alliance have on the Lok Sabha elections?
Badal: You’ll realise that every election throws up new percentages. Manpreet Badal has lost his credibility. He will lose by the highest margin ever in Punjab history. You will realise it when you see the results. He is fighting from an area where everyone knows him. He has always behaved like a dictator and everyone knows that.
Chitleen K Sethi: But why does Manpreet claim that your father likes him more than you? And that you have always suffered from this good son-bad son complex running in your family?
Badal: My father was very fond of his brother (father of Manpreet Badal) and still is. He always wanted to put his brother’s son ahead of me. My father never wanted to show that he is (working) for his son. Even when I was in Akali Dal, he would restrict me, saying what will people say… that ‘I am promoting my own son?’. He is a very fair person. Manpreet’s first election was from my father’s seat. Usually, it is the son who gets to contest from his father’s seat. He was given preference over everything and everyone.
Vivek Sood: Do you think giving free power to farmers is a good idea, especially when it is causing groundwater depletion?
Badal: If we do not give free power, do you think farmers will stop taking out groundwater? Every Punjab farmer, come what may, will do his best to save his crop. If the crop needs irrigation, the tubewell will be used but no one will spoil the crop by over-irrigating. If we don’t allow tubewell connections, the farmers will use diesel motor sets. In order to afford diesel sets, they will sell their jewellery, take loans to save their crops. If we have to feed the country, we have to produce wheat and rice and we have to have water. We are encouraging farmers to plant paddy varieties that take up less water, diversify into cultivation of maize and other crops which require less water.
Jaskiran: What about the cancer train that takes patients from Punjab to other areas for treatment? A whole generation has been affected by the indiscriminate use of pesticides.
Badal: In the US too, the maximum deaths are due to cancer. So this is not a problem that’s limited to Punjab. The Malwa belt gets polluted water from factories in Jalandhar and Ludhiana. I was flying over the Sutlej and saw the Buddha Nalla, a stream of black water. When it mixes with the Sutlej, which is clear, you realise the damage it is causing. I drink that water.
Chitleen K Sethi: Do you think you represent that fundamental change in the SAD’s agenda — of moving away from a panthic agenda in the 1970s and 1980s to an agenda of development?
Badal: We recently held a convention at Moga where we came up with the SAD agenda. That was an agenda of Punjabis. We converted our party into a Punjabi party.
Virender Kumar: If you are a party of Punjabis, what are the policy underpinnings to that?
Badal: In the party, we never differentiate on the basis of religion. We choose leaders depending on their capacity, capability and winability. In the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the maximum number of Hindu MLAs are in the Akali Dal.
Varinder Bhatia: Do you think the conviction of INLD leaders in Haryana was part of a conspiracy?
Badal: If you look at the chargesheet, you will see how ridiculous it is. What is the role of Ajay Chautala? There is a meeting going on, someone comes for five minutes and goes out and the CBI names him as the main conspirator. Please go through the conviction rate of the CBI. It is the lowest among all the agencies. Their role is to confuse the issue so much that no one can get out of it for years.
Rakesh Rocky: How are the 2002 Gujarat riots under Modi different from the anti-Sikh riots of 1984?
Badal: In Gujarat, people from two communities were killed. The law-and-order machinery failed. In 1984, people of only one community were killed. It was not a riot; it was murder. What is Modi’s fault? That he was the chief minister when the riots took place? Courts have given him a clean chit. He has come out clean despite the Congress’s onslaught of inquiries through all its possible agencies.
Jaskiran: Why is the government scared of Punjabi cinema making films on these issues then? Is it because the wounds are too fresh?
Badal: The wounds (of 1984) will not heal till justice is given. If someone from your family is murdered and the murderer walks about freely, how will you feel? You will never forget it. Once he is behind bars, you will feel that justice has been done. Here, not a single person involved in the rioting has been put behind bars. As a government, it is our responsibility to see that we do not create a situation that becomes a law-and-order problem.
Varinder Bhatia: Why do you think Punjab’s representation in the armed forces has gone down?
Badal: This is because of the Government of India. After 1984 and Operation Blue Star, they took a decision to cut down on the number of Punjabis in the Army. We have now set up an academy to specially train students for the National Defence Academy (NDA). The numbers being chosen for the NDA are increasing.
Chitleen K Sethi: Between Partap Singh Bajwa and Capt Amarinder Singh, whom do you fear more?
Badal: Neither. My father taught me one thing: Never look at what your opponent is doing. If you do that, you will never be able to move ahead of him. Set your target, focus on it. Let your opponents start looking at you. Let them be jealous of you rather than you being bothered about them. Whoever they (the Congress) make president, is immaterial to me. A leader should have the quality to command respect. Manpreet could not keep a single person with him. Bajwa has disintegrated the party, so many are leaving the Congress to join us.
Vipin Pubby: What is the point of SAD taking in so many Congress defectors?
Badal: We are not taking everyone who wants to come. We are picking and choosing. We are spoilt for choice.
Japjeet Duggal: You have a flourishing transport business in Punjab. You think your business would have done as well had it been in any other state?
Badal: Our transport business has been running since 1947. We have spread the business to Haryana and Rajasthan.
Tanbir Dhaliwal: Are you a businessman turned politician or a politician turned businessman?
Badal: Only a good businessman can run a state efficiently. We have to manage men, finances and, most importantly, have a vision for the future and targets to meet. In business, we don’t wait for the budget to be presented for development. The cut-off date is not March 31. We run the government like an organisation.
Transcribed by Chitleen K Sethi