Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu kick-started his poll campaign from Chandigarh with the bashing of the Badals. He accused the state’s first family of “looting” Punjab in excise collection, tourism and transport sectors during SAD-BJP’s 10-years rule.
“The Badal family’s intention was to become richer with people’s money. Punjab has suffered a lot due to the never-ending greed of the Badal family, which has a direct conflict of interest with the state exchequer,” he said.
Sidhu, who addressed the media here in the presence of Congress in-charge for Punjab affairs Asha Kumari on Friday, will fight as a Congress candidate from Amritsar East constituency for the February 4 elections.
Comparing the excise collection figures of Punjab and Tamil Nadu, he said Punjab has 12,500 liquor vends and the annual revenue collection from these stands at Rs 5,610 crore as against Tamil Nadu’s Rs 26,188 crore from its 6,323 vends. “Punjab has the highest per capita alcohol consumption. This trade has been monopolised by the Badal family for the last 10 years. Indirectly, every bottle in Punjab is sold by the Badals,” Sidhu said.
He said due to poor implementation of policies during the 10-year rule of the Akali-BJP government, Punjab lost Rs 1.5-lakh crore. “Had this money used, the state could have been free of debts, which rose from Rs 44,000 crore to Rs 3-lakh crore in 10 years,” he said.
- On CM candidate: I met Rahul Gandhi (AICC vice-president) a few times and never demanded anything. I have no personal agenda.
- On BJP: Before leaving BJP I met all its leaders and requested them to save Punjab. I would have easily left Amritsar and contested from Kurukshetra if it was in Punjab’s interest.
- On AAP: I met Arvind Kejriwal and told him that I don’t want anything. They didn’t want me to contest the polls.
- On 1984 riots: Manmohan Singh in his tenure as the Prime Minister had already sought forgiveness. “Main hunn baans te charr jaan? (Shall I climb a bamboo now?).
He said government-run hotels in Punjab have been closed and put on sale on the excuse that they were loss-making ventures. “The Badals sold government hotels and resorts to their associates at throwaway prices. A hotel built by the Badals in the periphery of Chandigarh reportedly charges up to Rs 5 lakh per night,” he said.
“Before coming to power in 2007, the Badal family owned 50 buses, but now the number stands at 650 and the number of transport companies owned by the family has risen from two to eight,” he said, adding, “Government companies having larger fleets are running in huge losses, but Badal family’s buses are profiting.”
On his joining the Congress, Sidhu said, “I joined the party without a condition. I will have a role in campaigning to make the party win the polls,” he said .
Attacking the opposition in typical Sidhu style, he said: “Pagri sambhal jatta, bairian ney lutt liya sara maal oye (It’s time to save the turban...enemies have looted the riches),” he said .