Reluctant to contest parliamentary elections until the weekend, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh is now raring to take on the BJP’s Arun Jaitley in Amritsar. In this interview, he discusses his change of mind and strategy:
What finally got you to agree to contest?
A call from Sonia Gandhi; she told me she needed me to fight. I did not think twice… and here I am today, chalking out my plans.
Was it only Sonia who could have made you contest? Would you have responded the same way to Rahul Gandhi?
I know Rahul since his childhood…. but with Sonia I have a close association. Her husband and I were friends. At the end of the day, it is the party president whose orders are to be followed… Rahul has texted me to say he is very happy.
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How do you hope to convince people who consider you an outsider?
I am an insider. Arun Jaitley is an outsider, contesting from Punjab for the first time. I have contested several elections from Punjab. Moreover, as chief minister, I brought many projects to Amritsar… We built flyovers, widened the roads to bazaars, set up a corridor to the Golden Temple and laid a road from the airport to the city.
What challenges will you face?
None. I have been campaigning for 47 years starting 1967, when my mother and father contested… I know the people of the constituency very well.
Operation Bluestar was a defining moment in your career. How does that reflect on your campaign?
People know I resigned from the Congress after Bluestar. I get special affection whenever I go there. I too have a special (affection) for the city.
When will you start your campaign?
I will take a couple of days to plan things out. A month is a long time… I am a fast campaigner. In 1980, I covered 1,740 villages in 10 days.
What will your campaign focus on?
Our main target will be Bikram Singh Majithia, who has made a mess of everything with his arm-twisting methods and by misusing the police. People now want to see the back of him.