Undeterred by the strong anti-Congress wave that has gripped most parts of the country, union information and broadcasting minister and Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari appears to be confident of the Congress doing well in Punjab in the forthcoming parliamentary polls. Hindustan Timescaught up with him at his Ludhiana house on Saturday evening to have his views over the present scenario of the state Congress and his performance as an MP. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Q. How will your party repeat the 2009 victory in the general elections in Punjab when there has been a revolt over the new team announced by Bajwa?
A. The hue and cry over the announcement of the team is unfortunate. I am confident that AICC in-charge Shakeel Ahmed will find constructive solutions to these issues. I am sure the party rank and file will take the SAD-BJP government head on.
Q. Many senior leaders, including Capt Amarinder Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Jagmeet Brar, have criticised Bajwa saying they were not consulted before declaring the state team. Did the PPCC president consult you?
A. Unlike many others, I don't discuss the internal party matter at a non-party forum. There are many channels and forums in the party to discuss the differences. I can only say that discussing internal issues of the party with the media is not a healthy practice. It's a wrong precedent being set.
Q. What solution do you have for the unrest in the state Congress?
A. It's not for the first time that such an issue has erupted in the party. It's a normal practice in a democratic party like the Congress. The AICC in-charge is keeping a tab on the issue and things will be back on track soon.
Q. Do you endorse the idea floated by Bajwa that senior leaders, including Amarinder and Bhattal, should fight the Lok Sabha polls?
A. I agree that all senior leaders, including the PPCC chief, must come forward and if the party thinks they are the best bet, they must contest the Lok Sabha polls.
Q. With what achievements are you going to put forward your candidature from the Ludhiana seat?
A. There are many. Everybody knows them, except perhaps the SAD-BJP leaders. The resumption of flights to and from Ludhiana airport, which was lying defunct for several years, a daily and dedicated Shatabdi train to Ludhiana, providing money for starting the City Bus Service in Ludhiana under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Rs 100 crore grant for Punjab Agricultural University, Rs 100 crore for rural roads in Ludhiana, Passport Sewa Kendra that will soon be upgraded to Regional Passport Office, and Rs 50 crore for cleaning the Buddha Nullah. The only regret is that I received no cooperation from the SAD-BJP government.
Q. There is a strong groupism in the Ludhiana Congress unit. There are certain factions that don't like you. Don't you think it will hamper your prospects in the polls?
A. Even if there are any differences, Congress workers and leaders ignore all and jump into the fray united. You will see it how our cadres take on the Akali-BJP combine in the elections. I will manage to bring all on board. Moreover, no leader from Ludhiana has any issues with me. All Congressmen are united.
Q. Your opponents in and outside the Congress call you an MP who visits his constituency only on weekends?
A. People of Ludhiana have elected me as member of the Lok Sabha, which is housed in Delhi. The Lok Sabha meets for about five months a year that mandates my presence in Delhi during that time. Besides, I have been the national spokesperson of the party and a minister. Despite that I have ensured that I spend at least 100 days a year in my constituency. I have visited each and every village at least twice and each and every ward on several occasions. Even when I am in Delhi, most of the time I keep addressing issues related to my constituency.
Q. There are rumours that you are planning to shift your constituency?
A. No. People of Ludhiana have given me tremendous love. There is no question of leaving the constituency. But, I will be left with no option if the party president asks me to do so.