Making his maiden appearance in the constituency since the BJP fielded Arun Jaitley and the Congress sprang a surprise by nominating former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal on Friday termed Amarinder as a ‘non-playing’ captain.
As Sukhbir also held closed-door meetings with the SAD-BJP MLAs to gauge the ground situation, HT talked to the deputy chief minister on a range of issues, including Capt Amarinder Singh, anti-incumbency factor and Navjot Singh Sidhu. Excerpts from the interview:
HT: How do you see the fight between Arun Jaitley and Amarinder Singh?
Sukhbir: There is absolutely no fight in Amritsar and Bathinda. Capt Amarinder Singh is a non-playing captain. He only plays when the weather is good. He took ample time to come to the constituency after being given the ticket. This shows his reluctance. Everybody knows he was not keen on contesting but has been pushed by the high command.
People are intelligent and they know the difference between the statures of Amarinder and Jaitley. People will reject Amarinder because he has repeatedly failed to deliver when at the helm of affairs. Jaitley is a man who can change things for Amritsar in a major way just because of his stature in the NDA and the vision he carries.
But the SAD-BJP faces anti-incumbency.
Results are one big indicator. We have won the polls. People have shown faith in the SAD-BJP just because we have performed. Last time also, there was talk of the anti-incumbency but people of Punjab backed us. This time too, the SAD-BJP will get more than 10 seats. It can even get all 13. People want the NDA to govern the country and they are fed up with the Congress-led UPA.
What is your take on the Bluestar issue that was raked up by the candidates?
It is Amarinder who raked it up. I just want to ask him why was he silent on this till the recent past. Amarinder is contesting the polls just by issuing statements and showing aggression. He has only negativity to talk about. He carries no agenda for Amritsar and is busy diverting real issues. This will take him nowhere.
The Congress has fielded senior leaders, which has given a boost to the party. What do you have to say to that?
The Congress is badly divided. As far as senior leaders are concerned, they are just hoping for the defeat of one another. We all know about the so-called ‘unity’ among senior Congress leaders in Punjab. People have rejected the Congress in the state and it is on the downhill.
The SAD-BJP is banking on the Modi wave. Does it have an effect in Punjab?
I think there is great enthusiasm among people to see Modi as prime minister. Is there any comparison between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi? The UPA in its 10-year regime had not much to offer. It has only pushed the country towards scams, price rise and poor policies.
Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu has said that he won’t campaign in Punjab. Will it affect the SAD-BJP prospects?
It is the BJP’s internal matter and only the party can answer that. Sidhu is not under my command.