Amid reports of the likely elevation of Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh to the presidency of Punjab Congress following his frequent meetings with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, has come the disclosure of Swiss authorities that the Narendra Modi government has sought its assistance in probing the “Swiss accounts”, allegedly held by Amarinder’s wife and Patiala MLA Preneet Kaur, a former union minister, and their son, Raninder Singh. But the former CM, in an interview to Sukhdeep Kaur, said it only showed how “nervous and threatened” the SAD-BJP alliance is by the changes about to take place in the Punjab Congress.
Q: The Swiss tax department has been asked by the Indian government to probe the Swiss accounts held by your wife Preneet and son Raninder.
Amarinder: Are my wife and son the only ones on the list? The so-called list had nearly 1,200 Indians. Why is the NDA government seeking a probe against just the two? Why was the report only released by the PTI, which is like a government news agency. Why did no private channel or newspaper of Switzerland or India report it? It is all geared towards politics. The news has come just when changes are about to take place in the state Congress. It shows the nervousness of the Akalis and BJP and is a planned move to scuttle these changes.
Who do you think gains from it?
Is it difficult to say who? It was Narendra Modi who had raked this baseless allegation in April 2014 at Barmer in Rajasthan, while addressing an election rally as the BJP candidate Arun Jaitley, currently his finance minister, was certain to lose from Amritsar, which he eventually did by a margin of over one lakh votes. Jaitley has still not come to terms with his loss in Amritsar and is pursuing the matter with a vindictive mindset. How come this issue of foreign accounts gains relevance before the state elections?
But the disclosures have given fresh ammunition to the ruling SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab. Even their Sadbhawna rally on Monday was mainly Amarinder-bashing.
I am loving their Amarinder obsession. They are feeling so nervous and threatened. Look at their plight. They hired a helicopter to take an aerial view to show the crowds at the rally but what it captured was empty grounds. I have uploaded the pictures on Facebook. There were not even 30,000 people. This when they got people from UP, Haryana and Rajasthan, paid them money, put 10,000 cops on rally duty to guard themselves and used school buses to ferry people. People of Punjab boycotted the rally. I have discussed their rally with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in our meeting on Tuesday. I told him that the groundswell of anger against the government was clear from the rally.
The presence of some Congress leaders in the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ and audio clips of Congress leaders talking to its organisers have embarrassed the Congress. The ruling Badals are accusing the party of supporting radicals.
They (Badals) first need to answer if they are authorised to tap conversations of people. The audio clips are fabricated. As far as presence of Congress leaders Ramanjit Sikki and Inderjit Zira at the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ is concerned, Sikki did it totally based on emotions. He is a devout Sikh and lives the entire month of January in the Golden Temple. Even his resignation was an emotional outburst. I, too, had resigned in 1984 from the Congress purely on emotional grounds.
But Sikki’s resignation has been accepted by the Speaker and would force yet another bypoll on the party.
This Speaker (Charanjit Atwal) is a double-faced person. When I was elected the Amritsar MP and resigned from the Patiala seat, he said I would have to appear in person for my resignation to be accepted. Now, he has forgotten the rulebook that he had read out to me.
But the Congress has now issued gag orders in Punjab, authorising only you, Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa and CLP leader Sunil Jakhar to speak on behalf of the party.
The gag order was needed. Too many contradictory statements were being made on behalf of the party. They can be issued in personal capacity but nobody has the right to pass off their personal views as that of the party.
You have had three meetings with Rahul Gandhi in recent weeks, including the one on Tuesday. You are reported to be seeking a free hand to work as the state chief.
Rahul and I had a short meeting of 20 minutes on Tuesday and we only discussed the Punjab situation. Generally, the state chief has a free hand. I know the system. I did not discuss it during our meetings.
Will you work with Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa if he is accommodated in the revamped state unit?
I would like everyone to be accommodated. I will have no problem if Bajwa is too. We have a good fight ahead (2017 state elections) and the party needs to work together.