Former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh, is openly seeking continuance of Sonia Gandhi as the party president saying her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi has still to gain experience to fit the bill. But his stand has isolated Amarinder within the Punjab Congress. Even his staunch loyalists are now distancing themselves from his view. Of the 33 MLAs, who supported the Captain’s view on Rahul in a press statement, a few claim that their consent was not taken. The controversy has earned his bete noire, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, more “friends” as was evident from more MLAs showing up for the Talwandi Sabo political conference, including Amarinder’s confidant, senior MLA Lal Singh. In an interview with HT assistant editor Sukhdeep Kaur, Amarinder says leaders like him do not fit into Rahul’s “age profile”.
Why are you objecting to Rahul’s taking over the reins of the Congress from his mother?
I am not objecting to Rahul’s elevation. What I am saying is that politics today is personality-based. Modi is the face of the BJP and Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party. If the Congress has to compete and regain its position, it needs Sonia Gandhi. She lost her husband and mother-in-law and sacrificed the PM’s post for the party. She is highly respected not just in the party but also by leaders of other parties.
But generational change is part of every party as all leaders retire one day.
I agree all leaders have to hang up their boots one day. Of the leaders who were in the Congress when I joined the party, just a few are in active politics today. But politics is not like bureaucracy or military service, where there is a retirement age. A person’s capability is not decided by age. One can be fitter at 80 than another at 40. Senior leaders may have more to offer to the party from their years in politics. I will also hang up my boots one day but not when I still have the ability to serve my party and state.
Why do you think Rahul will sideline the old guard?
We do not fit into his age profile. From media and other reports, the perception that one has is that he is not keen to retain those above 60 in the party. You cannot cut the party into two halves based on age and leave out the seniors.
But your stand is isolating you within the Punjab Congress. Even your onetime loyalist Lal Singh was seen sharing the stage with Partap Singh Bajwa at Talwandi Sabo.
It is up to Lal Singh if he wants to share the stage with Bajwa. He is welcome to do what he deems proper.
Some of the 33 MLAs claim that their consent was not taken on supporting your stand on Rahul. They do not agree with your views on Rahul.
That’s not correct. The consent of each MLA was taken by MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa. It was issued by the MLAs and I was not involved.
Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu said at Talwandi Sabo that they would not tolerate remarks against Rahul, no matter how senior the leader.
Who is Bittu to question me? He got a seat to contest in the Lok Sabha (in 2009) because of me and we made him the Punjab Youth Congress president. Will he now tell me what I should say?