About 14 months shy of completing his current term, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal dismisses the threat posed by AAP to his party in the forthcoming elections and wonders why the Congress picked a “defeated general” to lead its 2017 charge in the state.
Excerpts from an interview:
Are you worried that a revitalised Congress under Capt Amarinder Singh will attract voters in the 2017 Punjab assembly elections?
No. What is there to be worried about? Every time he (Amarinder) makes a lot of noise. It is not a new thing for us. I wonder why Congress has chosen a general who has previously led the army to two consecutive defeats? Such defeated generals are never sent to lead the army on the same front. Everybody knows what happened the last time (in 2012 assembly polls). He (Amarinder) had even finalised the names for his ministry, the team of his officers, ordered sweets, decided the colour of the “shamiana” (tent) that was to be put up at the venue.
But he is beginning with a rally in Bathinda, your home turf, on December 15?
It is of no significance. Please understand the Congress will bring people from across the state for the rally. Compare that to the mega-rallies that we have been holding in different areas, which are attracting huge crowds.
One sees huge crowds at your party’s rallies. Does this mean the people of the state have again started trusting your government?
Certainly. The biggest factor for the people of Punjab is peace and tranquility. They know we will never allow the peace to be broken, will never allow people of different religions to fight just because it could get us votes. That is how the Congress functions. This has been their policy forever. The Congress thinks it can get hold of power in Punjab only by dividing Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and others. Nobody has forgotten the hand of the Congress in growth of terrorism in Punjab. Everybody is aware of the role that the Congress played in the recent incidents in the state. Weren’t Congress leaders part of this so-called “Sarbat Khalsa” at Amritsar? Has any action been taken against them?
Is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging as a bigger threat than the Congress in the state?
No. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the situation was different. There was a wave for them due to Delhi. Even then they couldn’t do much. But, thereafter there has been a division (two of the four LS MPs were suspended).
But Arvind Kejriwal claims all surveys conducted by his party show clear victory for his party.
What is the authenticity of such surveys? Tomorrow, I can say our surveys are showing a clean-sweep for us. And, haven’t you seen what happened to the surveys in Bihar? Have you forgotten Delhi elections? I can say categorically that people in Punjab know who can ensure peace in the state…Peace and tranquility is a gift of the Gurus, whose “bani” (words) still guides us. The Gurus taught us never to differentiate on the basis of religion. Our outlook is completely secular. On the other hand, Congress only believes in exploitation and a divide-and-rule policy.
There are strong rumours about the BJP and the Akali Dal fighting the next elections separately. Is there any truth in this?
No. We have been the closest allies for the last many decades. The thought of parting ways has never entered our mind, and I know such a scenario is not in their (BJP leaders’) minds too. We will contest together and win a straight third term.
Your comments on the ongoing debate over intolerance in the country.
There is no such debate in Punjab. Despite attempts to disturb peace, peace prevails.
There is talk of some involvement of NRIs from Punjab in recent incidents and also the growing propaganda against your government. Your comments.
Yes, some things have happened. But, I feel most of these people are ill-informed, who are not aware of the ground realities in Punjab. I ask them to come and discuss their issues with me as many others do. They are welcome. They should be part of the Punjab-growth story.
You recently shunted out the DGP (Sumedh Singh Saini) and replaced him with Suresh Arora. Is this part of some course correction?
No, these are routine transfers. He (Saini) had served for over five years.
The elections are only 14 months away. What will be your party’s main pitch to seek votes?
It is very clear. Voters know we offer peace and tranquility, along with all-round development. The kind of development that Punjab has seen during our rule is unprecedented. Whatever is in our hands as a state government, we do. But for some things we depend on the Centre for funds, and even there we make all efforts.
Corruption is also going to be an issue?
I can’t deny that there is some corruption. But, tell me where in the country, it’s not prevalent? It is an unfortunate fact. But, our government has taken many steps, including filing cases against those indulging in corruption.
You have already announced implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.
Yes, I don’t know if we are the first to do so. But, we are certainly among the few states that have already announced.