Delhi not taking any decision, I am in poll mode: Captain | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Delhi not taking any decision, I am in poll mode: Captain

Some give their best when under pressure to perform. Former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha, Capt Amarinder Singh, is a man on a mission.

chandigarh Updated: Jul 19, 2015 13:06 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Former Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh with other senior congress leaders wave to the crowd during a rally at Dussehra Ground in at Phase-VIII SAS Nagar on Saturday (HT Photo)
Former Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh with other senior congress leaders wave to the crowd during a rally at Dussehra Ground in at Phase-VIII SAS Nagar on Saturday (HT Photo)

Some give their best when under pressure to perform. Former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha, Capt Amarinder Singh, is a man on a mission.

For someone who used to wind up his poll campaign early during the 2012 assembly polls, Amarinder is now willing to go for the long haul -- covering most of Punjab’s towns and villages in the one-and-half-year run-up to the 2017 assembly polls.

In the first leg of his Punjab tour, he has done 10 public meetings in as many days. And he minces no words while saying that he has no choice as Delhi (Congress high command) is not taking any decision.

“I am in the poll mode. How is someone to cover thousands of villages and towns of Punjab in just 17 months? It took me three weeks to cover just 10. Delhi is not taking any decision. What can one do? We have to take some position. The person in-charge (Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa) is not able to take people along. We have to go to the people with our agenda. Delhi has still to take a decision not only in case of Punjab but other states as well,” he says.

And Amarinder reasons the Congress has to start early if it has to take on regional parties. Dubbing late selection of candidates as a “major failing” of the Congress, he adds, “Look at the Akalis. They have already nominated their candidates. And in case of Congress, I have seen as state president that at times two candidates are nominated for the same seat and one of them is asked to withdraw on the last date.”

Is he trying to be assertive in the face of a weak high command? He denies that the party high command is weak. “Rahul (Congress vice-president) has just been handed over the charge and given all powers. He is taking his time to take decisions,” he says.

And now that Rahul is incharge, Amarinder, who has openly said earlier that it was not the right time to bring him in place of party president Sonia Gandhi, says Rahul has been handed the reins of the party by Sonia and he has no option but to work with him. “If you go to Sonia, she asks you to go to Rahul. So he is in command of the party now and we have to work with him,” he says.

STAKES HIGH FOR CONGRESS

And the reason Amarinder is making an early start to the polls is that he sees Punjab as the turning point for the party’s poll story. “We don’t know how we are faring in Bihar elections. Next is Punjab in 2017. We have to win Punjab and later Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand or we would be reduced to a regional party,” he says.

On Rahul’s recent remark in Rajasthan that the Congress needed both youth and experienced leaders in the context of Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot and former CM Ashok Gehlot, Amarinder said the party had realised that it needed both.

“Over 70% of our country’s population is below 40. You cannot ignore the youth. But at the same time, you cannot ignore those who have the experience of governance,” he said.

Behind the success of rallies like the one organised by MLA Balbir Sidhu at SAS Nagar on Saturday are the own high stakes of the MLAs.

A show of strength for Amarinder is also a show of their own political might in their constituency and they need it now when the revolving-door history of Punjab politics has changed and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has emerged as a contender for the space of opposition. Not to mention, the graph of the Congress has only been going down in face of intense infighting.

But Amarinder claims the graph of the Congress has soared since his Punjab tour. The slogans of some youth at the rally ground at least ring true for many in the Congress, if not for people of Punjab – “Punjab ki majboori hai, Capt Amarinder Singh zaruri hai (Punjab has no choice but to bring back Amarinder).