From a reluctant soldier pushed into the war scene, former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is now posturing as a war veteran who has fought and won many battles. In an interview to HT, he says there is so much of anger against ruling Akalis in Punjab that if state polls are held now, they would be wiped out.
And Majha, he adds, has always been the harbinger of change and history will once again repeat itself.
Amarinder: Not at all. Why have they fielded Ambika Soni from Anandpur Sahib then? Party wants senior leaders to lead from the front. People, Congress leaders and workers have welcomed my candidature and I will take the challenge head on.
One of the arguments you gave against contesting from Amritsar was that only a local candidate could do justice as an MP.
If I, who has spent many years in Punjab politics and 16 years in different positions in state Congress, feel you need a local candidate to understand problems, think about Jaitley. He is a Delhi-based candidate who practises in the Supreme Court and is number three in the BJP hierarchy. Will people of Amritsar go to Delhi with their problems or will he shift to Amritsar?
The BJP claims Congress old guard is running away from a contest while there is a clamour for tickets in the BJP.
Do I look old? It is not about running away. I had told the party that I would be more useful if allowed to canvass across Punjab and also needed to be in Patiala to campaign for my wife.
You had cited anti-incumbency against your wife Preneet Kaur as one of the factors not to contest the polls?
Preneet has been a three-time MP in a row and anti-incumbency can’t be ruled out. But she is hard-working and doing well. Even the Badals called their Patiala candidate a bechara (helpless), saying, “You have voted for Preneet thrice, now give this bechara a chance.”
During campaign, would you also talk about replacement of MP Navjot Sidhu by the BJP? What would be your poll pitch?
I have seen Sidhu play in Patiala since he was a boy. His father, who was the Patiala district Congress president, would be at the nets for hours and bowl to him. I feel sorry that he was replaced, but it is an internal matter of the BJP and I do not intend to rake it. I will tell the people of Amritsar that you have always loved me and I have always worked for the area’s development. Many projects, including the flyover to the Golden Temple, were started by our government.
Amritsar is seen as the epicentre of anti-incumbency against the ruling Badals. They have promised Jaitley a sure win.
There is anger against the ruling Akalis in the entire Punjab owing to nepotism, corruption, political vendetta, arm-twisting and police terror. Forget about ensuring Jaitley a win, if state elections are held now, they would be wiped out. Even the SAD old guard is fed up. People are awaiting an opportunity to throw Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law Bikram Majithia out of Majha. Look at Majha’s history; it has always been harbinger of change, and history will repeat itself. I have never liked CM Badal for his double-speak and he will go down in history as the destroyer of Punjab.
It is widely perceived that one reason for your reluctance to contest polls was that you like to take it easy, much like the erstwhile maharaja that you are.
I went to boarding school and used to wake up at five. Then I had a long stint in the army. But if I have nothing to do, should I still wake up at five? I am a disciplined soldier and have entered the battlefield like one.
By cornering you into a contest, is state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa having the last laugh?
Bajwa will have the last laugh after the results are out.