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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Harpal Singh Cheema: ‘Sidhu now has Punjab Model…was there a ‘lootera model’ under his watch for 15 yrs?’

Harpal Singh Cheema tells Man Aman Singh Chhina that he feels that the voters of the state have confidence in the ability of Arvind Kejriwal to deliver on the promises he has made.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina |
Updated: January 15, 2022 10:00:59 pm
Punjab Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Leader of Opposition, Harpal Singh Cheema, launched an attack on Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu and accused him of enjoying the rule of SAD-BJP as well as Congress governments in the state. He tells Man Aman Singh Chhina that he feels that the voters of the state have confidence in the ability of Arvind Kejriwal to deliver on the promises he has made. Excerpts:

There has been an internal upheaval within the AAP ever since the 2017 election results. What is the reason that the party feels that it is the preferred choice of voters in 2022?

People have confidence in Arvind Kejriwal. They believe that whatever commitment, promise of guarantee is made by Kejriwal, it will be 100 per cent fulfilled. There is only one leader in the entire country who delivers what he promises. People now openly say that Congress has not fulfilled even one promise that it made. On the other hand, the Akalis and the BJP are hated by the people, and they would think a thousand times before voting for them. In fact, under the leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal, the SAD is heading towards self-destruction. We asked the people of the state who the CM face of Punjab should be and within 24 hours we have received more than 8 lakh responses. This clearly shows that AAP is going to form the next government in Punjab.

Is this because AAP is benefitting from the internal fight in Congress?

Voters in Punjab want a stable government. For nearly one-and-a-half years the state has been left adrift because of this internal fighting in the Congress at all levels. Instead of Congress rule, Mafia raj was rampant in the state during this time. In Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s own constituency sand mafia was openly doing business. If a CM cannot stop the sand mafia from operating in his own constituency, then what will he do in the rest of the state? The Congress challenged us to release a list of 250 schools of Delhi to compare with Punjab. When we released the list and came to inspect their schools, they locked them up. Schools do not turn into smart schools just by painting the walls. You need teachers, assistants, laboratories, and infrastructure for that. Teachers are sitting on the roads protesting.

But Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu alleges that Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi has itself not regularised the services of teachers. He also says that the Punjab model announced by Kejriwal is a copy. What is your comment?

Navjot Singh Sidhu has no right to say anything. Right before his eyes, Punjab was being looted by his colleagues. He remained silent. Since when has Sidhu been in politics in Punjab? He was in BJP and who did that party have an alliance with? With SAD. For 10 years he ruled over Punjab through the Akalis. When Punjab was being looted by liquor and sand mafia, his wife Navjot Kaur was a part of that government as Chief Parliamentary Secretary and he was an MP. He was fast asleep at the time. In Congress government, he was a minister for two-and-a-half years. He should explain if he acted against anyone who issued a wrong CLU in his ministry. He refused to take power ministry because the power agreements would have had to be cancelled and he got cold feet. He is an unstable leader. Now he says he has a Punjab model. For the past 15 years was there a ‘lootera model’ under his watch? Nobody believes him. Sometimes he gives resignation and then takes it back. He keeps saying one thing or the other. He needs to see some good doctor.

Many leaders are flocking to BJP that was completely side-lined in Punjab a few months ago but it seems its popularity is increasing now. How do you see the impact of this development in this election?

Only those people are joining BJP who have been rejected by the people of Punjab. I want to tell you very clearly that BJP will not be able to win a single seat. Because of BJP, Akalis and Congress more than 700 farmers of Punjab died in the agitation against the three black farm laws. People of Punjab are a proud race, and they will not forget this in a hurry. They will make sure that the candidates of BJP and its allies lose their security deposits. They cannot even enter villages. They will be removed from the political scene of Punjab.

Kejriwal has conceded that if any farmers’ party fights elections it would eat into AAP’s votes. What is your strategy to counter this?

We are trying to educate all farmers, farm unions and labour unions that BJP wants a multi-corner contest. They want to divide the voters. People of Punjab are aware that if votes get divided then it will benefit BJP and Congress. So, the people are united, and they will vote for one side and that is AAP.

What has been the effect on AAPs image after allegations of ticket sale?

During elections such allegations are common. AAP clearly states that if anyone making such allegations has any proof then the same should be put forth. We are a clean party with clean intent, and we will not tolerate those who make false allegations against us.

How do you see the recent seizures of explosives, arms, and ammunition by the security forces in the state ahead of polls?

Before 2017 assembly polls there had been a bomb blast in Maur. An attempt is made to instil fear and doubt among the people over security. An effort is being made to destroy the brotherhood among the people of the state. But Punjabis are united, they live in the land of Gurus and Pirs and they will give a befitting reply to those who try such antics. You cannot try the same tricks again and again.

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