“The Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal issue has the potential of taking Punjab back to square one. There are people already waiting in the wings and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will ginger them up.” Punjab Congress chief and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh delivered this warning at the launch of his biography, ‘The People’s Maharaja’, written by Khushwant Singh.
The event was attended by the who’s who of the region, including Amarinder’s close friend Aroosa Alam from Pakistan.
Amarinder cautioned that 10 lakh acres will go dry in southern Punjab if the canal is dug up. “Six lakh families will have to go without food. Do you think people will sit back? The youth will draw weapons,” he said.
In a free-wheeling interaction moderated by Hindustan Times senior resident editor Ramesh Vinayak, Amarinder said that the ruling SAD-BJP Government had not pursued the case well. “They should have at least told the court about the quantum of water available in the state. I can’t accept the ruling at all,” he said, telling how he had circumvented the canal during his tenure as chief minister.
“I asked the secretary, irrigation, how we could avoid it, and he said there is a way but you might get sacked,” Amarinder recalled, while narrating the sequence of events that led to the Bill terminating all water agreements.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi was so miffed with him that she refused to meet him for six months.
THE 1984 CHAPTER
Dwelling on the run-up to Operation Bluetsar, Amarinder recounted how he used to make 10 trips to Amritsar every month from 1980 to February 1984 in a bid to resolve the Punjab imbroglio. “Ravinder Singh of Akali Dal and I worked very hard and many a times we thought a solution had been found, but either (Parkash Singh) Badal would drop it or Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would.”
Amarinder said he opted out of the negotiations in February 1984, saying he had done his bit. Amarinder recalls how he was caught unawares by the military operation as he was always told that it would be the last option. “I told the PM even then, that I would quit if it took place,” he said.
Watch| Captain Amarinder Singh talk about his biography ‘The People’s Maharaja’ and much more
ALWAYS A SOLDIER
Amarinder said though he had enjoyed every phase of his life, his stint in the army was his favourite. “I would have stayed on had circumstances not intervened,” said Amarinder, who continued his tryst with the forces by authoring three books on military history in the past five years.
Khushwant recalled how shocked he was when he visited Amarinder in October last year and found him contemplating a book on the Battle of Saragarhi. His book on the 1965 war earned him accolades from none other than the son of Gen Ayub Khan of Pakistan, who went on record to praise it as the most credible book on the war in which he too had taken part as a young officer.
Coming to March 11, incidentally his 75th birthday and the first time in 15 generations that a scion of the Patiala family has crossed this mark, Amarinder said he expected the Congress to bag 65-odd seats as people wanted stability and good governance. He gave around 40 seats to the Aam Aadmi Party and the remaining handful to the Shiromani Akali Dal. “There is a groundswell of anger against the Akali misrule, that’s why I opted to fight from Lambi,” he said.
Amarinder signed off saying he hoped the book will see many more updates and chapters.