Updated: June 21, 2021 2:45:38 am
Former Congress minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has said he is not running after any post in Congress, but stressed he was “not a showpiece” which can be used to win elections and then “selfish vested interests can override the interests of Punjab”.
In an interview to The Indian Express at his Patiala residence, the senior Congress leader, who has taken on Chief Minister Capt Amarinder on several issues, said that he was willing to become a zila parishad member in the state, let alone a Deputy CM or the PPCC president, and walk behind the Chief Minister if his (Sidhu’s) agenda for the development of Punjab was followed.
“I am not a showpiece that you will take me out campaigning, win the elections and then keep me back in the almirah. So that I can see how you do mining, how you do this, how you do that. And selfish vested interests overriding the interests of the state. This is unbearable for me,” said Sidhu.
Sidhu said he started his fight against the “system” running the state from the very first Cabinet meeting. “This system is controlled, manipulated and designed by two powerful families. They are the ones who control this system. They have belittled the legislature. The legislature is always accountable to the people. The people chose ministers and MLAs, they voted for them. They did not vote for an officer. But when you make the system accountable to an officer you have belittled the legislature. Why? To control. The power of the people does not return and is restricted to a few,” he said.
Referring to the ‘system’ throughout the interview, even when he spoke about his meetings with Capt Amarinder, Sidhu said that red herrings were being floated about meetings being held in Delhi with the high command and posts being offered to him. No meeting with the party high command is scheduled in the coming days, he said.
“There have been so many offers but I have rejected all. Because does that matter? They have made it about posts saying this post will be offered, that power will be offered. Is it about posts? It is about an agenda, about a roadmap about how Punjab will be resurrected to its glory. You fulfil it, I will walk behind you. Without a post I will work for you 24×7. But if you do not fulfil this then I will do it. I will take it to the people, through the people, by the people, for the people. I will get that power from the people. I will fight. My stand is very clear. I think 200 times before I take a stand, but once I take a stand I do not flinch nor back an inch,” Sidhu said.
When asked if he will take this stand within Congress or out of it, Sidhu said this was not a point to be debated.
“Listen, this is not an issue. Those who know me, those who know what I stand for. Those who know my character know the truth. These little games that are played…zikr ussi ka hota hai jiski fikr hoti hai (We mention those we care about). Have I reacted? Because I know this is just a diversion. They are diverting from the real issues. The real issue is the income of the state, jobs, farmers, solutions, how to benefit people,” he said.
Navjot Sidhu said that attempts had also been made to send him out of Punjab and make him the face of Congress in Delhi, but he refused.
“When ‘system’ saw that I was not listening to them then an attempt was made to send me to Delhi as face of the party. I had left I&B ministry and Rajya Sabha (when in BJP) but I did not leave Amritsar. These people used to think of these moves from here in Punjab. I said ‘no’ and then the ‘system’ invites me for tea. ‘Come have tea, son. Take this, take that. I said, no discussion sir. No. Then ‘system’ called me for lunch. If I cannot do any welfare for the people, if I cannot change their lives then there is no post that matters. If you fulfil this agenda then I will walk behind you. You give me a zila parishad post I will accept that too,” said Sidhu.
Referring to the manner in which he joined Congress before the 2017 assembly polls, Sidhu said that Prashant Kishore had met him more than 50 times to convince him to join Congress so that the party could win the elections.
“Prashant Kishore came to me more than 50 times from November 2016 to Jan 2017. I told him I am not coming. Because of Priyanka ji and Bhai Rahul Gandhi) I sent my wife to join the party. Because my father served Congress for 40 years I did not refuse them. I was told you have to join, else the government will not get formed. We will not get more than 40 seats. I told him that I have an agenda, boss. The welfare of the people of Punjab is the only priority. Politics was not a profession for me. Mera koi dhanda nahi hai kitte vee Punjab vich (I have no business anywhere in Punjab). I was earning Rs 20-30 crores a year. I left that and came because this is the purpose of my life. The mission is not a profession. You cannot stay out of the system and try to cleanse it,” said Sidhu.
The Congress leader said that his numerous proposals to cleanse the polity of Punjab by curtailing liquor mafia, sand mafia, cable mafia and transport mafia were all negated by the ‘system’.
“So the fight started in the very first cabinet meeting. I gave them a proposal that sir, let’s have a new liquor policy. Let’s earn around Rs 20,000 crore minimum. Let’s aim big. The system said no. I said why implement the pay commission in the last six months. Implement it now. Give youngsters jobs, why eat away the treasure of Punjab and why take loans to pay loans, why selfish interests should govern. The system said no,” he said.
He said he raised the issue of higher taxes for non-air conditioned buses run by the state government and lower taxes for Volvo buses run by Badals. “Who can fathom such a thing? I said let’s give permits to youngsters. Curb this. The system said no. I gave them a vision of e-governance in my department to root out corruption. I brought an advertisement policy to earn more revenue. The system said no,” he said.
Sidhu alleged that all development works that he had brought to the city of Amritsar, from where he is an MLA and has been a three time MP, were stopped by the present state government.
“They stopped all development projects in Amritsar. Projects which I had brought from under the nose of Badals by sitting on hunger strike even though Jaitley ji advised me against doing so. Overnight Badal was compelled to sanction the projects. But all the work worth Rs 150 crores was stalled by this government so that Sidhu does not get the credit,” he said.
When asked if he had raised these issues with the three-member committee set up by Congress in New Delhi, Sidhu said he had.
“This is the only thing that I talked about in the committee. The betrayal is the only thing that I talked about. No one can question me on this because I raised this from the first cabinet meeting. I have raised it in rallies too. Navjot Singh Sidhu will not change his stance. It is a very simple thing. You fulfil this agenda, no post is required. If you do not I will take it up with you. Ultimately we are accountable to people,” he said.
On the issue of the new SIT formed by the state government to look into the incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in the state in 2015, Sidhu said this was being done now only because the “chair” was in danger.
“What was the need for SIT? You weakened the evidence. You look at the deliberate mechanism. Even Kumbhkaran got up in six months. We reduced Akalis to the lowest ever number of seats, and broke Panthic votes. Should we have acted on this issue in the first six months when we came to power or the last six months when your chair is in danger? It is not about SIT, it is about intent. Why are you protecting them? Why are you not reviewing power purchase agreements? The state will lose Rs 60,000 crores in coming years. What is the problem?” he questioned.
Sidhu said that he decided to take matters in his own hands after every proposal of his for reforms in the state was met with a resounding ‘no’.
“When the ‘system’ said no then I said alright. Now I will get you. The ‘system’ put a board outside my office, ‘Minister of Power and Renewable Energy’. I said the system, which rejected every proposal of mine for the state’s welfare and the people, I will reject that system. I said no,”Sidhu said.
When asked what his future agenda is, Sidhu said his agenda was welfare of the state.
“My agenda is only the welfare of Punjab. The resurrection of the people of Punjab. So I went back home. Introspected, meditated. People thought I was sitting at home. I was working day in, day out. And out of that manthan I got all the answers. Punjab does not need the Gujarat model, Punjab does not need the Delhi model. Punjab needs a pure Punjab model. I have that model. It is inspired by Guru Nanak’s philosophy.
“You are giving jobs to wards of MLAs…Are you honouring merit? The bane of society is that you are not honouring merit. Is your power reaching the last man in the queue, the needy who does not have an earning hand or is it reaching the first in queue, the privileged class?” he asked.
Sidhu added that his son gave up the post of Assistant Advocate General on the day it was announced. “My wife rejected the post of Chairperson of warehousing Corporation with cabinet rank. If a post was a matter of concern, then I would have taken the I&B ministry, no? I would have been a third time minister,” he said.
Responding to a question on how the system will be changed, Sidhu said the people will do it. “The people will change it. What is mafia? It is covert operations. One man with courage makes a majority. Just see how many people agree with me now. Tell us how are you going to give jobs? The question is who do the people believe in? Ask the people. Then wherever one is does not matter. What matters is what you stand for. Issues matter. The real issues are not raised. Did I join the Congress or an individual? I joined at whose behest? I am still accountable to them. Have I flinched? The whole world knows who is my boss,” said Sidhu.
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