After bitter factionalism led to a change of guard in the Punjab Congress, unity is the new theme song for new state party president Captain Amarinder Singh, as he returns to lead the party to a fourth state elections slated in 2017. In an interview to HT, Amarinder said he would have to hit the ground running as only personal contact can win the elections.
Your first statement after becoming the Punjab Congress chief is that you will take everybody along and the Congress will fight the elections with complete unity.
I am going to take everybody along. Elections are won by personal contact and meeting people. I cannot tour all 12,400 villages of Punjab on my own. In a day, you can cover only 10 to 15 villages. So, the Punjab Congress has to work as a team. Everyone in the party is sensitive and serious about throwing out the Akali-BJP government and bringing the Congress back to power.
There is no convention of appointing a senior vice-president along with the state president of the Congress. The party does want you to work as a team.
There is no harm if a senior vice-president has been appointed. It will help in the allocation of duties and gearing up for the polls.
The party has also announced the campaign committee way ahead of the polls.
I have been the campaign committee chairman three times. It does not help to constitute one just three months before the polls. It is good that we are putting everything in place in advance.
Will the Congress appoint a new deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, now that you will not be able to attend it?
I held 47 rallies in Punjab in the past four months and many luncheon and tea meetings with party workers and leaders. I can’t sit in Delhi and look after Punjab. I will attend the Parliament session but seek the permission of my party president (Sonia Gandhi) to attend to my duties in Punjab when I cannot be present in the House.
Will the Congress fight the elections on a negative agenda of Badal-bashing or does it have a positive agenda for Punjab?
It has been a disastrous decade under the Akali-BJP rule as Punjab is sliding on all fronts social, political, economic, agricultural and industrial. Punjab had not witnessed such atmosphere of uncertainty and hopelessness even during the dark days of militancy. My topmost priority will be to restore the faith and confidence of people in the political leadership. The uneducated should have education and the educated youth should have jobs. Why would industry come to Punjab when it has better facilities and low power tariffs in other states? We have to create policies that bring industry.
But all that will reflect in the party’s poll manifesto to be released just before the elections.
I have some policies in mind and will discuss them with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. We will make it part of our election campaign. The Congress will usher in a new era in Punjab by not just talking but also bringing development.