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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

‘Despite perception of infighting, Sidhu, Channi, other leaders united’

The party is expected to field new and fresh faces without a negative political baggage, and consistent with the expectations of the people. The youth and women are likely to find adequate and welcome representation.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: November 18, 2021 1:01:35 pm
Former Law Minister and senior advocate Ashwani Kumar. (File Photo)

A day after Navjot Singh Sidhu resumed charge as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief, senior Congress leader and former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told Navjeevan Gopal that all senior leaders of the party, including CM Charanjit Singh Channi and Sidhu, were “united” and that “Congress will record a decisive victory in 2022 polls”. Excerpts from the interview:

How do you view Navjot Singh Sidhu resuming charge as PPCC president?
Notwithstanding the perception of internal discord in the party, the fact is that the Congress will resolutely contest the forthcoming election in order to register a decisive win. The state needs a party committed to inclusive, transparent and purposive governance. The PPCC president, the CM and all senior party leaders are united on the issue of good and progressive governance. The Chief Minister has a remarkable quality of self-effacement when required and is humble enough to respect the sensitivities of people.

There is multi-corner contest in Punjab this time. What is the Congress strategy in this scenario?
I have no doubt that Congress will record a decisive victory in 2022 polls. The poll arithmetic leans heavily in favour of Congress party. In the multi-corner contest, the split in the opposition vote is inevitable which will also benefit the Congress. The party is expected to field new and fresh faces without a negative political baggage, and consistent with the expectations of the people. The youth and women are likely to find adequate and welcome representation.

What has been the role of party high command amid Congress infighting in Punjab?
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are leading from the front to ensure total unity in the state unit and for giving a progressive vision for the future of Punjab. At the end of the day, democratic politics is both about leadership and ideology. Regrettably, in recent years, political ideology, as a driving force of politics, has been relegated. It is time for the Congress to focus on the ideological imperative that places society above individual. The party’s manifesto for the coming election will focus on the imperatives of all round inclusive development with a non-negotiable promise of transparent and good governance.

Concerns are being raised about security with Punjab being a border state. What is your take?
Considering the special circumstances of Punjab being a border state and heavily indebted, the Central government should be more than forthcoming to finance the development activities in Punjab. The current difficult financial and security situation in the state gives rise to a larger question of national security and needs to be addressed as such. I would appeal to the Prime Minister to rise above political considerations and generously assist Punjab to ramp up its social, economic and security infrastructure. More particularly, the state needs to be assisted with a massive skills development and employment generation capacity to give hope to our youth in their future.

CM Channi has been on a spree announcing sops ahead of polls and PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu is advocating strengthening the fiscal health of the state. How do you view this?
It is true that irresponsible fiscal expenditure is unsustainable, but it is equally true that democratic governments committed to the welfare of marginalised [sections] have to walk an extra mile to ensure a life of dignity to the poorest of the poor. We are, after all, a populist democracy and we need not pretend otherwise. At the same, there is no doubt that focus of the next government should be on wealth generation that will help to curtail public debt of the State.

What do you think about Congress’s political opponents in Punjab?
The credibility of Akali Dal and AAP is suspect. Loud rhetoric and irresponsible criticism of the government is not enough to win them political credibility.

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