Ask a common man on streets, he will tell you what ails Congress in Punjab: Captain Amarinder | india | Hindustan Times
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Ask a common man on streets, he will tell you what ails Congress in Punjab: Captain Amarinder

india Updated: Jan 14, 2015 21:45 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times
Captain Amarinder Singh

Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has been at loggerheads with state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa. The widening rift between the two leaders is further hurting the prospects of the faction-ridden Punjab Congress at a time when the ruling Akali Dal is facing the heat even from its long time ally BJP over the drug issue. In a wide ranging interview to HT, the Amritsar MP said the Congress graph under Bajwa is on the down slide and it is for the party leadership to pull the state unit out of the current mess.

Your consistent demand for Bajwa's removal and non-cooperation is affecting the functioning of the state unit. This has also given rise to intense factionalism in Punjab Congress.

There is absolutely no factionalism in Punjab Congress. There is complete consensus within the state unit from grass-root workers to legislators and majority of PCC office bearers that the party needs change of leadership. I am only articulating a popular demand from our rank and file.

I have nothing personal against Mr Bajwa. He has been there for about two years now, see the graph of the party. It is totally on the downslide. It is strange that while the graph of the Akali-BJP government is going down, so is ours.

We have not been able to capitalise on the unpopularity of the Akali government. Ask a common man on a street, he will tell you what ails Congress in Punjab.

Bajwa's argument is that Congress lost last two elections under your leadership? The party also broke its tradition and named you as the CM candidate in 2012 polls but still the party lost. How do you counter it?

Party may have lost two elections, but it also won at least four under my leadership. Adampur by-election, which we won against Akalis despite they having swept to power with a landslide majority only a year before, the 1999 parliamentary elections (we won ten seats), 2002 assembly elections and 2009 parliamentary elections (we won 9 seats).

Moreover, 2007 and 2012 elections, apparently you are talking about, had their own reasons. In 2007, I was the chief minister but someone else was the PCC president, who got tickets for 20 people, out of which we won only one. Similarly in 2012, 39 tickets were allotted against my recommendations, out of which we lost 32.

Bajwa got 6 tickets, out of which he won just one, that of his wife. In both the elections, our vote share increased. Had I been allowed to nominate candidates in all the constituencies we would be in the government at this time.

Despite that, in 2012, there was only a marginal difference of less than 1% vote share, (.8% to be precise) between Congress and Akali-BJP combine. Besides in 2012, we faced a nationwide anti-Congress sentiment because of Anna Hazare movement and the 2G controversy and Punjab bore the brunt as it was first state to go to the polls post-Anna movement.

Don't you think you are putting the Congress high command in a precarious position given that if the leadership accepts your demand there will be similar demands from other states?

A wrong notion is being created that I am trying to exert any pressure. In the last 16 years, I have been the chief minister, twice the PCC president and twice the campaign committee chief. Do you think I will harm the party in any way? It is my duty to present clean and clear picture before the high command. I am not asking them to make me the PCC president.

I am presenting the grass-roots picture before them. This is the actual feedback. Anybody can crosscheck it at anytime whether what I am saying is correct or not. As regards the possibility of similar demands rising in other states, you cannot apply the same yardstick everywhere.

Different states have different requirements. Yes, in Punjab we urgently need a leadership change to save the party as the current dispensation is not in a position to win the 2017 elections.

Will you agree on a compromising candidate who is acceptable to all the factions as a way out?

I have already told you that I have never asked that ‘make me the president’. We have several capable and competent people who can lead the party and who can be acceptable to majority of the state leadership and rank and file. The choice is the prerogative of the Congress president.

You skipped winter session of parliament and also the Congress Working Committee meeting. Is there a message in it?

I did not deliberately skip the session. My mother was critically ill so I had to spend time with her. I had already told the Congress president about it. And regarding the CWC meeting, there was some communication goof up as there was no information received anywhere, neither at my Delhi residence nor in Patiala. I came to know about it the same day in the morning through newspapers and it was too late. I couldn’t have made it to the meeting as I was in Patiala.

Will you agree on a compromising candidate who is acceptable to all the factions as a way out?

I have already told you that I have never asked that ‘make me the president’. We have several capable and competent people who can lead the party and who can be acceptable to majority of the state leadership and rank and file. The choice is the prerogative of the Congress president.

There have been reports that you are planning to quit Congress and form your own party. Some reports suggested that you are joining BJP.

It is just absurd. Do you think that someone like me who is getting such a quantum of love and affection from colleagues, grassroots workers, and the amount of confidence of the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi has in me, can ever think of something else? No question of leaving the Congress come what may.