The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate from Anandpur Sahib, Prem Singh Chandumajra, pitted against Congress veteran Ambika Soni, is fighting a now-or-never battle. He may have defeated big leaders in the distant past, but has lost three recent elections in a row. Excerpts:
Q: Since you have lost three elections in a row, how bright are your chances this time?
Chandumajra: For me, every election I’ve contested has been a do-or-die battle. I see bright chances this time as I started well on time. Also, SAD-BJP MLAs and halqa (constituency) incharges from all nine assembly segments falling in this parliamentary seat are with me, working wholeheartedly.
Your main opponent, Ambika Soni, has based her campaign on your previous defeats.
Tactically, I have not lost the elections. I missed out by small margins and I have given tough fight to opponents, be it the assembly polls of 2007 and 2012, or the Lok Sabha elections of 2009. Plus, there are other crucial factors that ensure victory, but were not in my favour then. But in the past, I have also beaten big guns such as Capt Amarinder Singh. In fact, Soni has lost all parliamentary polls that she has contested in the past. I will defeat her by a big margin.
Why should the people of Anandpur Sahib elect you?
The SAD-BJP coalition is synonymous with development. And with BJP’s Narendra Modi as PM, it will make a great team. I can assure you that the first decision the Modi government would take after coming to power would be a special package to Punjab for being a border state. Soni won’t win as she is ‘anti-Punjab’. She was instrumental in a special industrial package going to Himachal Pradesh, due to which the industry in Punjab is suffering. She is actually an outsider and has never visited Bajwara (Hoshiarpur), which she claims is her native village.
What role do you see for yourself in a BJP-led NDA government at the Centre?
A very important role in policy-making. Everyone knows that I am capable of taking up and resolving people’s issues.
Your rival says you were associated with the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s in Punjab.
In those days, the movement was considered a pro-people struggle. I started my political career as a student participating in the Naxalite movement, struggling for the rights of people of Punjab, and I am proud of that.
Your drew criticism for calling Soni a ‘buddhi aurat’ (old woman).
I have never used any derogatory words for my opponent. She is sidetracking the real issues of inflation, scams of the UPA government and the cancellation of the ropeway project from Anandpur Sahib to Naina Devi. She was instrumental in scuttling the PM’s visit at the time of inauguration of the Virasat-e-Khalsa memorial. Also, the UPA failed to protect women, whereas I’m sure everyone would agree that women are very safe and respected in Punjab.