Speaking from former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s family bastion of Patiala, AICC leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday exhorted the people of Punjab to vote for the Congress to maintain peace and refrain from handing over the border state to parties that had “forces” behind them.
“This is a border state, a sensitive state. Congress understands Punjab. It can maintain peace… All these people who are making promises, they will ruin Punjab if you give them a chance. Punjab will be on fire. We do not divide. We take everyone together. Thousands of our workers laid down their lives. We understand violence. We understand if peace is gone from Punjab, then nothing will be left. We will lay down our lives but would not let the state be divested of peace,” he said.
Addressing a rally in party MLA Hardial Singh Kamboj’s constituency of Rajpura in Patiala district, Gandhi said Punjab was not a “chemistry lab” that could be handed over to the BJP or the AAP for an experiment. “The issue of utmost importance for Punjab is to maintain peace. Congress understands that… Congress is going to win. I am telling the party workers to fight. Only five days are left. Bring a Congress government in the state by getting 70 to 80 seats,” he said.
“Do not go by Narendra Modi’s face. Just ask a question as to what is the hidden power behind this man. Also, observe his actions. For instance, when Narendra Modi announced demonetisation, did he have the poor behind him? No. The poor man suffered. Then Modi ji brought three farm laws… he has forces behind him. You get taken away that Modi ji wears good clothes, he speaks well. But just see the forces behind him. Farmers were out on the roads for a year. They would not have if they were the force behind Modi ji. So what was the power? Three-four millionaires of India. They say the warehouses of farmers have a lot of money and they need that money. They are the powers behind Modi.”
“Now, look at Kejriwal. If you can understand the force behind Kejriwal then you will understand Punjab’s politics. I have 20 cases against me including defamation, criminal and civil cases. Have I apologised? Why did Kejriwal seek forgiveness from Bikram Majithia? What was the need? The leaders of Congress did not seek forgiveness,” he said.
He added, “Have you heard about the Gujarat model? Now there is the Delhi model. Modi used to ask for one chance. Now, Kejriwal says the same thing. Remember, it is the same force behind them.”
Coming down heavily on Amarinder, Gandhi said, “Have I made a mistake by making Charanjit Channi the CM? Have I made a mistake of naming him who has come from a poor background? Because we want a CM who has the poor as a force behind him and not a CM who has the force of a millionaire behind him. We want our CM to have farmers, poor and common man’s force behind him.”
“Guru Nanak did not have an iota of arrogance. Channi goes to people, hugs them, helps them. Does he make a mistake? Have you ever seen Amarinder Singh hugging any poor man? The day I understood that Amarinder Singh ji and BJP have a relationship, that day the Congress ousted Amarinder Singh,” he said.
He also revealed how Amarinder had refused to cancel controversial Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), “I told Amarinder Singh ji that for the people of Punjab, the power issue should be sorted. He said the government has signed contracts. Did he not have a contract with the people of the state? I asked him if he is the CM of thermal plants or the people of Punjab. I told the same thing to Channi ji. He did not say that there is a contract. But he did it. So many families got cheaper power.”
He asked people if they had received Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts as promised by Modi before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “Now he does not say that. Now, he comes to Punjab, he does not talk about job, black money. Now, they come and talk about drugs. They say when their government comes, they will open an institute for drugs. Arrey bhai, your government is not going to come. Why are you wasting time?”
To galvanise demoralised party workers, the former Congress chief promised them posts in boards and corporations if the party is voted to power. “The people of Punjab will get all 170 government-related services online. You will get them on your mobile phones. We have different boards and corporations. In the upcoming government, the workers would get these chairmanships – the workers who give their sweat and toil. Channi ji has already announced Rs 1,100 for women every month and eight cylinders a year.”
He announced that Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi will work on breaking monopolies, including on transport, cable TV and sand. Bus permits will be given to youths, cable TV tariff will be reduced from Rs 400 to Rs 200 and sand will be made available for Rs 1,200 per trolley, he added.
He said he was mocked by the Akalis and the BJP when he came to Panjab University in 2014 and raised the issue of drugs. “The BJP said there is no issue of drugs in Punjab. Junior (Sukhbir Singh) Badal also said the same… Whenever I speak I think it through. I will not make any false promises from this stage. There is a list of leaders like Modi, Kejriwal, who do not mind making false promises. I have been taught not to tell lies,” he added.
Gandhi was canvassing for Congress candidates in the Patiala region, including Madan Lal Jalalpur (Ghanaur), Vishnu Sharma (Patiala-Urban), Mohit Mohindra (Patiala-Rural), Rajinder Singh (Samana), Harinder Singh Harry Mann (Sanaur).
He also recalled how he had cautioned governments about Covid, “I said outside the Parliament that India will face a tragedy. Lakhs are going to die. I told the Delhi government many times that we will suffer. We should be ready with ventilators and oxygen cylinders. But they mocked me. When lakhs were facing death, the Prime Minister said thaali bajao. After that he said mobile ki light chamkao… AAP says they opened mohalla clinics. The first clinic was opened by Sheila Dikshit. Where did these mohalla clinics go when we saw people outside on roads dying due to shortage of oxygen?”
Interestingly, as Punjab chief minister at the time, Amarinder Singh was credited with handling the pandemic better than many other states. Gandhi said, “In Punjab, we fought against Covid. We did not make false promises.”
He also reminded the voters of demonetisation. “During demonetisation, I was mocked. What happened? Have you forgotten? All poor people stood in the queue, but millionaires did not.”
“When petrol prices fell in the international market, it went up in India. When you fill petrol, who makes profits? This is the same power that was behind farm laws, demonetisation, GST. Modi did not slash petrol prices, Channi did. Petrol got cheaper by Rs 10 and diesel by Rs 5 because it is your power behind him. This is the only fight,” he said.