Capt Amarinder Singh, former Punjab CM and now Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, has been calling for the removal of PCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa who, in turn, has questioned Amarinder’s right to make that demand. Now in New Delhi, Amarinder says in an interview it is for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to decide who’s best suited for the job, and rules out any chance of his joining the BJP. Excerpts:
Bajwa is upset with your calls for unseating him and is accusing you of instigating party men against him.
Please ask Pratap what was he doing when I was the PPCC president. Wasn’t he doing the same? In fact, I had submitted a compete file about his activities to the high command then. He needs to look at his past history and then speak. Nobody should take him seriously.
Bajwa has questioned whether you should go ahead with a January 22 rally in Amritsar against the Akali-BJP alliance on the drug problem.
Do I need his go-ahead to hold a rally in my constituency? It is not a PCC event. Amit Shah was scheduled to launch his party’s campaign against drugs from Amritsar on January 22, which has been postponed. Do I need Pratap’s consent to ask Shah what right he has to talk about drugs in Punjab while enjoying the perks of office with the Akali Dal?
Have you met Sonia and Rahul to discuss the leadership issue?
Yes, I have met both of them and shared my views. The majority of MLAs and MPs from Punjab, too, hold the view that there must be a change in leadership if we want to win the 2017 assembly elections. Pratap is unfit to lead the party and is only going to take the party down. Tell me, with such resentment among the masses against the Akali Dal and the BJP, why is the Congress unable to garner the support of voters?
Bajwa points out that under your leadership, the Congress lost two consecutive assembly elections.
It was the wrong choice of candidates. Can I be blamed if candidates fielded despite my objections lose? In 2012, 39 candidates were people I didn’t want. Almost all of them lost. Seven were given tickets on Pratap’s recommendation. Only one — his wife — won. If my advice had been taken seriously, the Congress would have been in power in Punjab today.
There was a lot of discussion after you skipped the winter session. Was it to show your anger?
No, no. I had informed Sonia Gandhiji about my mother’s illness and that I had to take care of her. She had agreed.
But you didn’t attend Tuesday’s CWC meeting either.
That’s because nobody informed me. I got to know about the meeting from the media. I think it was Janardhan Dwivedi’s office that had to inform everybody. I was surprised that nobody called me. They have my address, my email, my phone numbers. They could have sent a simple text message. But I guess somebody goofed up.
If not Bajwa, then who?
We have many better people who can perform. But, it is for Mrs Gandhi and Rahul to take a call on who’s best suited for the job. But Pratap must be shown the door.
Are you also in the race?
There’s no race. Whatever task the Congress president has given me, I have performed. I didn’t want to contest the Lok Sabha elections. But, after she asked me, I contested and won. I have never backed away from accepting responsibility.
There has been speculation that you may join the BJP.
No. let me say it categorically, there is no chance of me joining the BJP. I am happy where I am.