Manish Tiwari talks to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during his election campaign in Bathinda. Excerpts:
What’s your election agenda?
I have been fighting elections for the past 45 years. The Congress ruled in the Centre far longer than any other party but its policies were always anti-Punjab. Whatever little we got from the Centre was only during the Vajpayee-led NDA government when Punjab got the projects like Amritsar international airport, Bathinda refinery, etc. It’s in Punjab’s interest that once again, NDA formed the government at the Centre.
Is Jagdish Tytler an issue in Punjab elections?
It certainly is. By withdrawing the candidatures of the 1984-riots “tainted” Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, the Congress has already admitted to its guilt. We all know the Congress government is shielding them by putting pressure on the CBI. But the Sikhs will not spare them till they get justice. If our government comes in the Centre, we’ll set up fast track courts to conduct speedy trial.
What do you expect the Centre to do?
Poverty alleviation, employment generation and raising education standards should be the first priority of the Government of India. But it has failed to tackle these issues. You tell me where has the poverty been alleviated in this country. Congress’s slogan of ‘Congress ka haath, garib ke saath’ is all farce. Punjab farmers contribute to 60-70 per cent of India’s total wheat production, but they are the worst sufferers. They are facing grave injustice and forced to commit suicide due Centre’s wrong policies.
Why do you expect everything from the Centre? What’s the state government’s role then?
A major portion of tax resources finally go to the Centre. Still we are doing whatever we can.
Punjab is considered a prosperous state, yet Naxalism is fast spreading in the state. What are you doing to check it?
It has become a national problem as many states are in the grip of it. In Punjab also, it’s a problem. I had raised this issue with the Prime Minister and requested for a concrete plan to curb this menace. But the Centre doesn’t seem to be taking the problem seriously. The Government of India has developed a tendency to wake up only after the problem has gone out of hand.
Will you accept any role in the NDA in the coming months, in case, your son Sukhbir Badal takes over as the next Punjab CM?
You can’t plan anything in politics. Whatever is in your destiny will ultimately happen. I have never planned anything in my 50 years of political career. I feel in politics, you make one wrong move and you are doomed. I have seen many such cases.