Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh said here on Monday that time had come for Rahul Gandhi to take up the reins of the party, even as he stated that his party was open to an alliance with like-minded parties in the 2017 Punjab assembly elections.
Talking to reporters during the National Press Day function at Patiala Media Club, Amarinder said the Congress vice-president had proved his leadership skills in the Bihar assembly elections, where the party not only considerably improved upon its 2010 tally but also made immense contribution to the grand alliance’s victory.
The Captain said Rahul had already proved beyond doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was just a salesman, not a leader.
Ironically, Amarinder had earlier been stressing that Sonia Gandhi should continue as the party president.
The Amritsar MP said the ouster of the Akali-BJP government in Punjab was a foregone conclusion and the Congress was ready to step in.
“Although the Congress is in a very strong position to achieve a comfortable majority on its own, it is still open to an alliance with like-minded parties to ensure that the secular and progressive vote against the Akali-BJP alliance is not split. The Bihar experiment (grand alliance) has proved very successful and there is no harm in trying a similar arrangement here,” said Amarinder, who has held three meetings with Rahul in the past 15 days on the Punjab Congress leadership issue.
On the Aam Aadmi Party’s prospects in Punjab, he said people of the state were wise enough not to experiment with inexperienced leaders.
The former CM did not approve of the Punjab government slapping sedition charges on radical leaders and putting them behind bars. He said this was no solution as the government, instead of addressing basic issues, was trying to gag the people.
He criticised the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD’s) plans to hold sadbhavna rallies in the state, saying that this was not the right time to do so. “Is this the time for the government to hold a show of strength when everybody knows that it has lost all its strength?” he asked, adding that the government should address public grievances first and show its progress report, if any, to the people.
Replying to a question on the lack of coordination between state and central governments, Amarinder said Modi was acting as an autocrat who did not like to take anybody into confidence, not even his own ministers such as Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj.
The Captain recalled that when he was the Punjab chief minister and Atal Bihari Vajpayee the Prime Minister, he would always get issues resolved. “We belonged to rival parties, but I never had any problem with Vajpayee ji”, he said, adding that “in stark contrast, Modi does not care about anyone, including Parkash Singh Badal, even though the BJP and the SAD are alliance partners.”