Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has slammed Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa a day after his faction had reportedly called truce in its anti-Bajwa tirade, saying there is no question of a permanent truce with Bajwa. He says he has called his supporters to keep aside the differences only in view of the parliamentary polls. The former state Congress chief says Bajwa is hatching conspiracies to keep him out of state politics but he won't let him succeed.Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Bajwa is keen that you contest the parliamentary election from Bathinda. Are you game?
There is no question of contesting the parliamentary polls. I had conveyed this to Congress president Sonia Gandhi about a year ago. Parliamentary politics is not my cup of tea. I don't want to be out of Punjab politics as I want to contribute to the state politically and socially.
But Bajwa wants you to contest in order to corner the Badals.
Bajwa fears for himself and is not worried about the Badals. He fears me, wants me out of the state politics and is hatching conspiracies. Why should I contest the elections when I can contribute more to the party by campaigning in the state? I don't want to confine myself to a single constituency. I won't fall into Bajwa's trap and let him succeed in keeping me out of state politics. At same time, I want to know why Bajwa is shying away from contesting from Gurdaspur, where he is the sitting MP.
Your declining the offer to contest from Bathinda gives ample ammunition to your rivals to say that you have joined hands with the Badals.
There is no question of joining hands with the Badals. Everyone knows how I had taken them on. And who do they fear. These rumours have been spread by my rivals. There is no scope for a patch-up.
You opposed the CBI probe into the drug racket. This belies your credentials of fighting against the Badals.
Let me make it clear that I have not given a clean chit to Majithia and the Akalis. I had said that Punjab Police are doing a good job and let the investigation be completed, which is being monitored by the high court, the media and other central agencies like the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Narcotics Control Bureau and Intelligence Bureau. I had only raised the point that those who feared to be exposed were demanding that the probe be shifted to the CBI. And I stand by it.
Who fears to be exposed?
Everyone knows it (laughs).
Who should contest from Bathinda? Is Raninder (Amarinder's son) ready to go there?
In the 2009 elections, it was my plan to field Tikku (Raninder) from Bathinda to stop the Badals there. It worked well as we managed to win more seats than the SAD-BJP alliance. But now, when Modi and the AAP factor are working in the state, Surinder Singla is the best bet. As far as Tikku is concerned, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will take a call on him.
Can Singla give a fight?
Yes, he is the right candidate as he will not only get the Hindu votes to offset the Modi factor, but will also get the business community's votes to counter the AAP factor. As finance minister, he had done a lot of work in Bathinda, which will stand him in good stead. And garnering Sikh votes for the Congress in Bathinda is my duty. Harminder Jassi is not a good candidate against Harsimrat.
Should Bajwa contest, and from where?
I will meet Sonia Gandhi and request her that Bajwa be fielded from Gurdaspur as he is our best bet from there. I don't understand why he is paranoid about contesting from there. Sometimes he says he won't contest, and at other times seems interested in contesting from the Amritsar seat. When party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are contesting the polls, Bajwa as the PCC president should also take up the challenge in order to send the right message to the workers. I will campaign for him as it's not his election but my duty towards Sonia Gandhi.
There are reports that you and Bajwa have called a truce.
There is no question of a permanent truce as my differences with Bajwa can't be sorted out. Bajwa has divided the party with his wrong policies. I had called the truce for the time being as it's my duty to win the Lok Sabha elections for Sonia Gandhi. I will confront Bajwa after the Lok Sabha polls. That's why I have called my supporters to gear up for the elections by keeping aside the differences for the time being.
What will be your role in the elections?
In the past 16 years, I have twice remained the Congress Campaign Committee in-charge -- once as chief minister and twice as the PPCC president -- thus it's my duty to campaign for the party all over the state. And I will do it to expose the SAD-BJP combine and win the maximum seats for Sonia Gandhi.
Then what will Bajwa do?
He should contest from Gurdaspur and ensure that the party retains the seat.
What are the party's chances in the state in these polls?
If the party chooses the right candidates, we can win majority of the seats. And I will meet Sonia Gandhi to suggest a list of the best candidates from every seat, including Bajwa from Gurdaspur.