In a defiant mood after rejecting the post of chief parliamentary secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Jalandhar Cantonment MLA and former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh spoke out on Thursday, hours after six others took oath as CPS from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. In an interview with HT, he was candid to accept that he was upset with the SAD but evaded more pointed queries. Excerpts:
Why did you not accept the CPS post? Are you upset with the party?
Yes, I am upset. I will tell you why. As far as the CPS post is concerned, I simply did not take it because, with only around seven months left [in this government], it’s not the right time to accept anything. Enjoying all the privileges of CPS without having any say in the government is not acceptable to me. For others, it may be their personal call. I am not among those who are crazy to get jhandi wali gaddi (official car with flag) and laal batti (red beacon). As captain of the Indian hockey team I have seen all that. That’s why I simply conveyed to my party high command that I could not accept this idle post. And I don’t think I have done anything wrong.
A: I am neither upset with the party nor with the deputy CM saab. He is the one who brought me into politics. I am not happy with a few decisions. My grouse with the government is over a solid waste management plant coming up in my constituency. Two other pollutant plants — a water treatment plant and a dairy complex — are already in my constituency. By allowing this third plant that has been planned by officials in the most callous manner, I won’t let the people of my constituency to die of the poisonous air that these plants produce. My fight is not personal; it’s against the system. I got to know that CM saab today said the plant is not coming up at Jamsher village now. He is a father figure to me; but where is any government letter or anything with which I can convince my voters?
Was your nod taken before picking you as CPS? SAD leaders say your refusal to take it amounts to revolt.
No, I was not consulted at all. Had the party consulted me, I would have said ‘no’. And simply declining the post of CPS doesn’t make it a revolt. Calling a spade a spade is in my nature. Those who are thinking of it as revolt must show a larger heart.
What about reports that you are also upset for the party not utilising your experience as a sportsman?
That’s true. When I was asked to contest on the SAD ticket, I was promised that my experiences as a sportsperson would be utilised in the government. I was coming into politics to do something for the youth as I had left my job as SP (superintendent of police) and had to scrap my contract of Rs 35 lakh a month with various sports channels who had hired me as an expert. But, in the four years as MLA, I was not given anything. I managed to convince myself thinking that governments have compulsions. But, here, the issue is different. I went to officials asking them about the status of the (solid waste) plant, but nobody listened to me.
Are you planning to switch to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after this move to refuse teh CPS post?
It’s completely wrong to say that. Throughout my career as a sportsperson, I always challenged wrong decisions. It’s in my nature. I am not blind like many others, that I will follow what the masters will say. In my hockey career too, when I found it fit I challenged decisions of giants like Suresh Kalmadi and KPS Gill. I don’t fear anyone except God. As far as rumours about AAP are concerned, those are all trash.
So will you continue to work in the SAD?
People elected me as MLA barely within 15 days after I joined politics. I am not leaving this constituency. In the coming days also, I have planned many programmes in my constituency. Who knows what God has in future for all of us?